Channels: Which e-channels should be used to reach as many people as possible?
• Use social media, particularly Twitter for faster updates to all stakeholders, but don´t stop using more traditional (or even “old-fashioned”) methods of participation (real life debates etc.). In both cases, moderating is very important.
• Keeping up with the new trends in the field of communication can be difficult for a Municipality because the organization is not as flexible as the private sector. Nonetheless, we should try to choose some specific areas within communication that we want to be really good at!
• Operating in social media undeniably challenges the whole organisational culture and the existing work processes. In order to cope with that challenge, it is necessary to previously agree upon (and, ideally, formulate clearly) a set of rules for the officials to follow on social media. There are numerous questions: will the Facebook page, Twitter and YouTube accounts be only updated by the department of public relations or the public relations adviser? Or should each official have the obligation to present issues and respond to questions related to their field? Or should that be the case with only certain officials (if so, who)? How often should officials visit the local government’s Facebook page? Should the officials have an individual account for this purpose or should they be allowed to raise issues and answer questions related to the city and municipality life under their personal accounts as well? Each local government should discuss these questions in their internal structures, because the work processes and organisational cultures are very different in different local governments.
• Before going on social media, the most important question to answer is whether the officials are ready for it. It is important to remember that using social media forces the officials to take more risks and decide on their own what and when to communicate. There is no time for lengthy processes of approval that are characteristic of the public sector – in social media, answers are needed at a moment’s notice.
• The role of social media should be viewed more broadly than just as a channel for exchanging information and having a dialogue. As the case-study below on the preparation of the participation process as a social media campaign in the City of Tartu bus procurement project reveals, this channel makes it possible for the local governments to successfully conduct online consultation and reach a final decision through a participatory process.
• Social media is an excellent platform for quick and flexible communication and local governments should treat it as an official channel for participation and distributing information. But it is important to remember that not everyone is or plan to be on social media sites, so it is important for the local government to cooperate with local media.