Communications Staff 101


As you’ve read in this issue, there are tons of creative ways to get your message out to the community and some solid suggestions on how to make the message sticky. But, you may be looking around the room and wondering, “who is going to do this???"

Staffing communications departments is not rocket science, nor is it as easy as getting your nephew to donate some hours of his free time because he likes to read and write. Hiring professional communications staff will pay off! Whether it’s employees or off site consultants, check their past work and assure that they love people, solving problems, and have a good sense of humor.

Each City or Town issue stems from a variety of departments - you’ll also want to have someone in those content areas on hand to help the communications lead with jargon, acronyms, background and context. Then, let your communications team run with your issue and develop a strategic plan including - key messages, applicable tools and tactics, and measurement goals or metrics.

The structure of your communications team can vary depending on staff sizes, available resources, and community expectations for information, updates and engagement.

Some common titles/roles include:

  • Director of Communications
  • Public Relations Coordinator
  • Marketing Specialist
  • Creative Director
  • Graphic Designer

However, you also have other marketing and communications resources at your fingertips. The horticulturist planting flowers on Main Street? Sure - I bet he/she loves their job and will tell people about how passionate your organization is about economic health, creating a memorable sense of place, and how their team sticks together to cover plants in an early frost.

Your bus driver. Seriously! Why not hire your bus drivers for customer service and communications skills? You can teach them to drive a bus later. What matters is that your front line staff are enthusiastic about their job, their community, their local government, and making someone’s day through little things like a beautiful pot of flowers, or a safe, relaxing ride to work.

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Your citizens. One of the best ways to build a corps of ambassadors in a community is to invite them in. Get them behind the curtain. Let them drive a snow plow (in a parking lot!), let them use Police training equipment in a mock drill, let them play finance director for a day and figure out the city’s budget. Once you show a group of passionate, or disgruntled, citizens how the government works, you have a group of cheerleaders, ambassadors, and town criers that you can tap for small and big issues. Engage them after they graduate from a citizen academy to serve on focus groups, citizen advisory committees, or budgeting teams. Spreading good news through word of mouth is still the most effective way of getting information; these people will tell their friends, colleagues and family about your government - why not inform them, give them facts, and share the stories that make your job so interesting and fun!

If this sounds really hard, and really time consuming, or, you just aren’t ready to commit to 1-5 FTEs, hire a communications consulting firm. Nimble, experienced, and with a deep talent pool, a firm can catch on quickly and get you in a great strategic position before you know it!