Expectations of local government are at an all time high.
Residents want more information about – and more influence over – the services governments provide and how we provide them. They expect timely, easily available information delivered professionally and conveniently.
We all know it takes people to deliver on these expectations. But for many local governments, hiring staff is very difficult. Somewhere along the way, increases in staff have become synonymous with swollen budgets and egregious overhead costs.
So what’s a local government to do? Innovate.
Outsource Your Communications Department
When hiring staff is simply not an option, many departments – Building Inspections, Engineering, City Attorneys – look to a third party to provide service. But what about some of the less traditionally outsourced functions. What about outsourcing your communications department?
The City of Castle Pines, CO has adopted this approach. The organization operates with bare bones staff that totals five FTEs. Castle Pines is a small community of approximately 10,000. As a community with high expectations and engaged residents, communications is a high priority for the City, as is efficient government.
Insert the Outsourcing Solution
For less than the price of a full-time salaried employee, Castle Pines contracted with a third-party communications team and has access to the varied skills, depth, and flexibility of an entire firm. Using a third-party firm lets them take advantage of an entire department worth of expertise, without having to fund an entire department.
But what about responsiveness, trust and local knowledge? An outsourced model is only successful if both parties invest in the relationship. With Castle Pines, the “outsourced” communications team is committed to the community. And Castle Pines is committed to supporting and resourcing the communications team so that both are successful.
The outsourcing model works because it’s scalable. You can ramp up production when a hot issue arises, and scale back when as needed.
Innovative, Not Unprecedented
The idea of outsourcing a previously in-house department has been done before, and can be implemented successfully. Take SAFEbuilt for example; back in 1992, SAFEbuilt re-defined how local governments provide community development services. They essentially created a private, full-service building department and allowed local governments to access the expertise, diverse skill set, and level of service required by each community. For significantly less cost than hiring a full department staff, a local government can essentially receive the same services on an as-needed basis.
Empowering Staff With Do It Yourself Communications
Outsourcing isn’t for everyone. Sometimes a local government doesn’t need the long-term relationship and continued support. Sometimes you simply need the right tools to empower your staff to effectively communicate. All it takes is a little boost, some guidance and a few high quality templates to get you moving in the right direction.
Take for example, the Town of Avon, CO. After a comprehensive branding effort, the community found itself with a beautiful new logo and compelling brand story. All they needed was a little help to put that brand into action. A comprehensive marketing plan that focused on three key areas was developed with contracted communication professionals: brand activation; civic engagement; and marketing. In addition to high-level strategies to bring their brand to life, the brand activation section included templates and tools to jump-start a consistent communications effort.
The marketing professionals provided usable templates for advertisements, signage, posters, postcards, special event rack card, trail map, etc. The templates reflected Avon’s new logo along with design standards to create visual consistency and increase awareness. Avon is now empowered to use these tools by changing content and production as needed.
Regardless of how you resource communications – in-house professional staff, outsourced firm or DIY – it is an important and necessary expense. We believe that informed and engaged residents make for better communities; invest in your community by connecting with the people you serve.
Slate Communications is a full-service marketing and public relations firm that works almost exclusively with local governments. Find us online at www.SlateCommunications.com or contact Kim directly at email@example.com. Learn how you can get professional communications assistance that empowers your local government staff to engage and inform your residents, consistent with your personnel and budget resources.