The Secret to Compelling Online Engagement

Posted on May 24, 2019

Angelica Wedell

This guest blog is by ELGL member and photographer extraordinaire Angelica Wedell from the National Research Center, Inc. (NRC).

You may be tweeting daily, streaming public meetings on YouTube and even publishing press releases on the official website blog. But with all this effort to meet constituents where they are already communicating, many local governments are asking why more residents aren’t engaged.

Showing Up is Only Half the Battle

While showing up digitally is a big part of the community engagement puzzle, it really is only half the battle. The reality is that just because a city or town posts something onto Facebook, doesn’t necessarily mean that residents are going to care about it. If you are spending time and money attempting to connect with your community with little to no return, it’s time to take another look at your content strategy.

If you truly want your digital content to make a connection and drive relationships between residents and the city, you must always ask yourself before writing anything:

Why Should They Care?

Sure, that sounds great and all, but what do people care about? On a basic, human level we all want to feel invested in something. We want to have genuine connections with others. We want to be informed of things that are specifically relevant to us. We want to be entertained. We want safety for ourselves and our loved ones. We want to succeed in our endeavors. Whatever it is that we are looking at, we only really care about it if there is something in it for us.

Know Your Audience

You can’t tell people what’s in it for them if you don’t really know who they are and what they want. Understanding your residents, their hardships and their dreams, is the golden ticket to authentic and enduring community engagement. 

You can study your audience by taking note of their conversations on social media, gathering demographic data on your neighborhoods and, even better, conducting community surveys and gathering quick input online. The information you glean directly from and about your residents will be instrumental in helping you write stories that will be relevant and valuable, specifically for them.

Tell Your Story

Even when you have a message worth sharing, you still have to show people why they should care about it, if you want them to spend any amount of time on it. Your city’s blog content should never be dominated by spreadsheets, meeting agendas and legalese topped with boring headlines and linked to in laundry-list Tweets.

Instead, people want articles and images that tell a story, allowing them to understand and relate to their local government on a much deeper level. The good news is, there is a story in everything you really want your constituents to know about.

Rise Above the Noise

Now that you are telling the right stories to the right people, your content will stand the test of time and help more residents connect with you. But there is a lot of other content on the Internet also competing for their attention. On any platform and with any message, you can follow the Conversion Trinity to compel people to engage.

Conversion Trinity = Relevance + Value + Call to Action.

Show your readers that your message will matter to them. Prove to them that your content is valuable. Help them get involved by explaining what to do next.

When you engage your residents by regularly giving them quality content – created by you specifically for them – they can relate to you in the same way they relate to their favorite podcasters or TV show hosts and characters. Residents may even feel like they personally know the people and places they are reading about.

The issues their local government describes can finally become real to them. These stories can make people want to be civically involved, even if they never were before. And at the very least, they will keep coming back to your website for more.


NRC Marketing Director Angelica Wedell has worked in multimedia communications for more than ten years. She enjoys leading the strategies and digital production efforts of National Research Center, Inc. (NRC), networking and speaking professionally at conferences across the country, writing guest articles for syndicates and editing NRC’s monthly newsletter, The Civil Review. Angelica believes that community surveys are especially valuable for local government transparency, data-based decision-making and improving quality of life for everyday residents. Feel free to connect with Angelica on LinkedIn

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