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Blog  /  11.09.2021

Is your PIO ready to go?

The COVID-19 pandemic presented many challenges for governments, particularly local municipalities. Residents turned to their local leaders to help bring the pandemic under control, continue vital public services, support households and businesses, and address systemic public health challenges.

As local governments implement plans in their communities, supported by Coronavirus recovery funds as part of the American Rescue Plan, now is also the time to evaluate an often-overlooked area of risk in your public information function.

Crises can take many forms—from misdeeds and workplace violence, to natural disasters and technology failures. While we hope that we will not encounter another pandemic like COVID-19 anytime soon, there are continued risks to local governments that leaders can and should be prepared for.

Today, residents expect their governments will be ready to respond and communicate in full transparency. In times of disaster, local leaders have just seconds until information—whether correct or incorrect—is spreading on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Next Door.

Additionally, public information strategies have evolved considerably in the last few years. There are now a myriad of ways to reach your community.

  • Key performance indicators and Facebook Insights can tell you if your digital communications are reaching your residents and making an impact.
  • Chat bots can help answer common questions and get information to residents more quickly. Live, digital events engage and often reach more residents.
  • Geotargeting can reach people in a specific area of your community, quickly through social media—such as to inform them of relief funds available following a natural disaster.
  • Instagram reels will reach younger residents, with long-form videos up to an hour long.

While these digital innovations may not be appropriate for all communities, being focused on who you want to reach, and how they prefer to receive their information, is key to breaking through the clutter.

Beyond being ready to respond in times of crisis, your public information plan can and should include opportunities for regular, proactive engagement. Open lines of communication and responsiveness build public trust and improve the services that governments provide. Residents and business owners want opportunities to ask questions, provide feedback, and to know their voices are being heard. Proactive engagement also can help address issues early on, before they become larger problems in your city or town.

While maintaining an updated website is important, an updated public information plan will outline all your municipality’s key audiences and uniquely identify the most appropriate channels in which they prefer to be engaged. It also will include ways to measure your effectiveness and outline methods for continuous improvement.

The COVID-19 pandemic and continued evolution of technology has changed the way many people in communities across Maryland are experiencing their world—now is the time to update your public information plan to adjust to this change.

FOVNDRY public relations, marketing, digital, and creative experts have been supporting Maryland state and local governments for more than a decade with public information and community engagement strategies that make an impact. Our experts are available to review your municipality’s current plan and offer an independent analysis of what is working and what could be improved. If no plan exists, we can also develop one with you. Let’s work together to achieve a more informed and engaged community, post COVID-19—which is essential every day and key in times of crisis.

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FOVNDRY (formerly Van Eperen) is an award-winning, fully integrated communications agency that has made its mark in the public and private sectors, plus a variety of membership-based associations since 2004. We craft custom solutions for multiple industries, including: Health & Science, Transportation, Real Estate, Education, Consumer Packaged Goods, and more. With offices in Rockville and Baltimore, our Maryland-based PR and marketing firm also fulfills the creative and branding needs of businesses and organizations in the DMV and beyond.

We’re a certified minority business enterprise (MBE)/disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Delaware, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. As well, FOVNDRY is a woman-owned small business (WOSB) that’s on the federal GSA AIMS schedule (GS07F0312T), and on a mission to help DoD and HHS agencies. Get to know us better in person, and connect with us daily via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.