Communications Q&A

Q: When it comes to communications, how do we improve our reach into the community relative to issues to be addressed by Council?

A: In a world where information is abundant and easily accessible, the challenge for Village Council lies not only in communicating effectively but also in ensuring that their message reaches the community. When it comes to addressing critical issues that affect the community, improving reach is essential. The Village already offers various communication channels, including CodeRed notifications, email alerts, an official Facebook page, a dedicated website, and a quarterly newsletter. Additionally, residents can attend council meetings in person, watch them via livestream or recorded sessions, subscribe to “The New Pitch,” or follow other social platforms managed by private residents, like the WPLife Facebook group.

However, the real challenge may not be the availability of communication channels but rather the effectiveness of these channels in balancing three critical factors: quality, effort, and timeliness.

The Communication Triangle: Quality, Effort, and Timeliness

Similar to the project triangle, which is a model used in project management that shows how the balance of three constraints – scope, time, and budget – affects the quality of the project, I came up with my own version of the communication triangle. My version revolves around three key elements that play a crucial role in disseminating information effectively to the community: quality, effort, and timeliness.

Quality Information: Quality information is essential to ensure that the community receives accurate and reliable updates about the issues being addressed by the Council. The Village already offers high-quality information through channels like “The New Pitch” and council meetings. However, this quality often comes at a cost of timeliness and may require residents to invest more effort in accessing it.

Effort: Effort refers to the level of involvement required from community members to access the information they seek. Effort can range from minimal, such as scrolling through a Facebook group, to more significant, such as attending a council meeting in person or navigating the official website. Balancing the effort required with the desired quality of information is crucial to accommodating different community preferences.

Timeliness: Timeliness is another vital aspect of effective communication. In today’s fast-paced world, some residents may require immediate updates, while others may be content with information that arrives later but is more thorough. Timely communication often demands more effort and resources to ensure that accurate information reaches the community quickly.

Finding the Right Balance

To enhance community engagement and improve the reach of critical issues, the Village Council should strive to strike the right balance within the communication triangle. Here are some strategies to achieve this balance:

Diversify Communication Channels: To effectively reach our community, it’s important to offer a diverse range of communication options that cater to residents’ varied preferences. In addition to our existing avenues, we should consider introducing a Village eNewsletter.

The Village eNewsletter has the potential to be a valuable resource, delivering timely information to residents’ inboxes. It can include links to relevant resources and even feature background write-ups or articles to provide context on important issues. Moreover, it can be segmented to allow residents to receive information specific to their interests, whether related to the Planning & Zoning board, job openings, volunteer opportunities, or recreational events.

However, it’s important to recognize that creating and maintaining an eNewsletter can be resource-intensive. It may not be feasible for the current staff to undertake this task. Instead, we should consider the possibility of incorporating it into future staffing plans or as part of a collateral duty for existing staff members.

By keeping this idea in mind for the future, we can ensure that our communication strategy remains adaptable and continues to meet the evolving needs of our community.

Educate the Community: Educate residents about the available communication channels and their respective strengths and weaknesses. Encourage them to choose channels that align with their information needs and preferences.

Enhance Timeliness: Invest in technologies and processes that can help deliver high-quality information more quickly. This might involve improving the livestreaming experience of council meetings (*cough* like fixing the microphones *cough*) or providing real-time updates on social media.

Community Involvement: Promote community involvement by providing opportunities for residents to engage directly with the Council. This can include town hall meetings and feedback sessions.

Tailored Communication: Recognize that different issues may require different communication strategies. Some issues may necessitate immediate updates, while others can be communicated more gradually. Tailor the approach to fit the nature of the issue.

Improving community reach regarding issues addressed by the Council is not merely about providing more communication channels. It’s about understanding the nuances of the communication triangle—quality, effort, and timeliness—and finding the right balance to effectively engage with the diverse needs of the community. By doing so, the Village can ensure that critical issues are addressed comprehensively, and residents are well-informed and engaged in the decision-making process.