With municipal elections coming up this year, mayors and city council members seeking re-election need to communicate pro-actively with voters. You don't want to start your formal campaign too early, but it's never too early to communicate with voters.
They will appreciate your communications to them if you provide interesting and valuable information. Here are a few ideas:
- Use social media effectively. Post items of interest to city residents, down to the neighborhood level. Remind constituents about meetings and city/neighborhood events. Use photos and video as much as possible, and respond to questions and comments. Make social media interactive, not just one-way.
- Neighborhood meetings. Do at least two a year in every region or broad neighborhood of your city or district. Do it at your home or someone’s home in the neighborhood. Send invitations to every active voter household in that neighborhood. Make it a newsy, informational letter. Invite them to share their concerns. You could do it jointly with another like-minded council member or two, assuming you get along.
- Consider the important issues your community faces, and send news releases, letters, op-eds on those topics regularly to your weekly or daily newspaper.
- Complement your social media by producing and distributing your own quarterly newsletter, printed or e-mail. Some politicians wonder, “What can I write about?” In reality, plenty of great content exists. Write about your feelings and positions on city issues. Highlight a business or an individual, or a neighborhood park. Write about fun things to do in your city, or highlight youth/recreation activities, or other issues. Highlight students from elementary schools in your district. Honor a senior citizen every quarter or six months. Recognize deserving teachers or volunteers. Present a gift to someone who has achieved, donated by an area business. Highlight great gardens and beautiful yards. Talk about walking a neighborhood and who you met there and what you learned from citizens. Use lots of names. People love to see their names. It shows you care
- Sponsor an essay contest on what makes your city great.
- Do a questionnaire or survey asking citizen’s opinions on issues.
- Use the official city newsletter to communicate. Each council member could have a short blurb in the newsletter. Don’t just toot your own horn. Provide valuable information and praise/thank others.
- Have a page on the city web site or produce your own web site or web log. Make it informative and fun.
- Look at events as opportunities. Events drive politics. Crises, disasters, holidays, parades, community doings – all are reasons to hold events and communicate. Localize national events. Write letters to victims of crime or disaster. Look for opportunities around events like National Family Week, or a legislative study on an issue important to your community. Be aware. Be thinking. Read a good newspaper every day, asking yourself “How can I use this event or that issue?” Watch calendars and lists of upcoming events for opportunities to communicate.