How to get your local government’s next big project on everyone’s radar
Quick philosophical question: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? More importantly, if you announce a capital project at a town meeting and no one is around to hear it, does it make news?
Well, maybe. But even so, we all know that resident misunderstanding and confusion about capital projects is an issue that never seems to go away, and it’s an issue that can be a real drain on your government’s productivity.
The good news is, there’s a better way to get the word out about your projects, a way that doesn’t rely solely on sparsely attended public hearings and a line or two in your local paper. To keep residents informed, and to minimize public confusion and misunderstandings, publishing capital project details online is clearly the way to go. Think about it: with residents and other stakeholders stretched so thin these days, the more information you can put within a cellphone’s reach, the more likely you are to connect with busy constituents.
According to Pew Research, 81 percent of Americans now own smartphones, so an online project page that’s accessible via mobile will put important facts at everyone’s fingertips. That said, there are a few easy steps you can take to ensure the absolute best results when you’re publishing your capital project’s details online. Here are seven ways to showcase capital improvements in your community and engage more residents in the process.
1. Share your project page once per week
Obviously, whenever you post details about a new project online, it’s important to share a project-specific link on social media to drive traffic to your page. But, social posting is not a one-and-done exercise. Generating and sustaining public awareness takes a little more vigilance.
Try to push out notifications on Twitter, Facebook, and other channels at least once a week. ClearGov makes it easy by embedding social share buttons right on each panel of your project page. It takes only seconds to get the word out. Plus, residents who visit the page can easily subscribe to receive automated email updates every time you change the timeline or make other adjustments.
2. Upload site plans and conceptual drawings
Site plans and blueprints make for a more detailed story. They also reveal the tremendous planning that goes into a project. Before ever breaking ground on a new school or a public park, governments engage in exhaustive planning and research, conducting feasibility studies, selecting sites, exploring funding options, and more. You’ve done your homework. Why not share it?
Even if visitors to your project page don’t review each planning doc you post, the very fact that you’ve made them available online actually telegraphs value. Experiments cited in a recent Harvard Business Review study on operational transparency show that people value service more when they see the work that goes on behind the scenes. So, don’t be afraid to share the back story.
3. Put your project on the map — literally!
At the risk of sounding like a realtor, “Location, location, location!” In an age in which everyone has a portable GPS in their pocket, a map with a location marker is the price of admission. Fortunately, with ClearGov, putting your project site on the map is as easy as entering the street address on the ‘Project Details’ page. ClearGov automatically generates a color map and drops a red pin at the location of your project. Got multiple projects? No problem, ClearGov maps them all. Check out the town of Monson’s project page.
4. Communicate each stage of the project
“Are we there yet?” When you’re not in the driver’s seat, the trip always seems longer. You probably remember this from when you were a kid. Posting regular updates to your project page can reduce incoming calls and help quell all those nagging questions about how much longer this is going to take.
Plus, remember that with ClearGov, any resident that subscribes to your project page will automatically receive an email notification every time you make a change — so keeping interested parties in the know is easy.
5. Upload in-progress pictures
Try to capture and upload every major milestone from groundbreaking to ribbon cutting — and everything in between. Again, people value what they see. Before and after shots are great, but all that activity in the middle deserves a shout-out too. If a picture paints a thousand words, then imagine the story you can tell with a dozen images. The Borough of Crafton just kicked off a road paving program and they already have 26 images on their page.
Chances are everyone at the project site has a cell phone. Just ask one or two workers to regularly snap and send pictures that show progress. Uploading images to your ClearGov product page takes just seconds and when you’re done, the people who follow the page will get the update via email.
6. Post traffic alerts
Traveling through a work zone often means delays. Changes in traffic patterns, lane closures, and slow-moving tractors can be a nightmare for residents who either live in the area or pass through on their daily commute. Realistically speaking, you can’t eliminate delays. However, you can — and should — set public expectations accordingly. Posting timely traffic alerts on your project page can save a lot of headaches — for you, site workers, local businesses, and the community at large.
7. Attach an FAQ
Curious residents phone the public works department with project questions all the time. They also flag down workers at the project site and corner local council members at the supermarket. And, more often than not, people tend to ask the same questions. The sooner you document and publish those questions, the sooner you can get everyone on the same page, namely the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) doc.
You can also enable the comments feature on your ClearGov project page. That allows visitors to submit questions and comments in a moderated forum that you control. Scroll down this project page that the Village of Rye Brook created for their new public works facility to see a great questions and comments thread.
Bonus Tip: Each of the aforementioned best practices take only seconds or minutes to implement. Consider blocking out 15 minutes on your calendar one day a week to update your page. It won’t take you that long, but it’ll be your weekly reminder to keep the information current. Future you will thank you for it.