Managing the Municipal Message: Every City Has a Story

Stacey McLaughlin and Rick Dancer will serve as presenters for the interactive seminar, “Managing the Municipal Message,” at the Congress of Cities conference on Wednesday, November 13, 2013 in Seattle, Washington.

Through social media, YouTube and city government websites, cities are in direct communication with residents now more than ever.

Cities can either be the directors of their own stories, or the character in someone else's. Local governments can creatively promote their achievements and elicit much-needed buy-in and participation instead of being just a blurb on the news-at-eleven sound bites. The city can be the messenger, with technology and social media leading the way in informing residents about what is going on in the community. How cities shape and deliver their stories is becoming more and more central to successfully communicating with citizens.

Stories are ever present and powerful, and how they are told is  more important.  Stories have helped to get hospitals and new schools built, but they have also destroyed careers, and can routinely hijack processes and projects. This makes accurate communication with citizens even more difficult, but also more important.

Finding the best way to tell a city's story and manage the municipal message is key. Providing inspiration is also a significant aspect of shaping a message. The fact that many stories are attached to social movements or public policy decisions is not a coincidence.

Managing the municipal message by partnering the power of technology and social media with the essence of storytelling allows local officials to develop more personal relationships with residents and build community in new ways. Managing the municipal message is an art. There is a flow to the process and, like good artists, starting with the right canvas and the proper tools is the key to success. Knowing when, how and what story to tell in any given situation is a combination of intuition, understanding and a measure of luck. City Hall has the ultimate capacity to shape community through communication. Use it!