Six things parish and town councils should do during the ‘Four Week Lockdown’

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Six Point Plan: Parish and Town Council Communications for November’s Four Week Lockdown

The government’s announcement of an impending ‘Four Week Lockdown’ across England presents huge challenges for councils and communities alike.

Residents and other stakeholders within your community will be urgently seeking guidance, signposting and advice, and it’s therefore important that your parish or town council communicates effectively during this impending lockdown, and beyond.

We’ve put together a six-point plan for what your council should consider doing, both before and after Thursday, including practical ideas for how you can communicate and engage effectively with your community in the midst of this second wave of COVID-19.

At Breakthrough Communications, we know that every one of your councils will be going above and beyond for your communities at this time. Trying out some or all of these ideas is therefore a great opportunity to show residents what their local council does for them, and get your messages across effectively.

1. Share guidance and signpost to local services

As always, one of the key communications jobs for your town or parish council is to signpost to services provided by principal authorities, the health service, and government. Residents using your social media and website in the next month will mainly be looking for lockdown-related information, so do make sure you have your ‘signposting’ content front and centre, across all your communications channels. You could regularly share content from these organisations’ social media pages to your own, and include links in your e-newsletter and on your council’s website. Facebook in particular enables you to mark content as being important, if it relates to COVID-19.

2. Put a short information video on your website

Posting a short (one to two minute, maximum) video on your website’s front page that runs through the key information that residents will need is an accessible and effective way of getting the message across. Even better, store the video in YouTube and ‘embed’ the video on your website, to auto-generate video captions, making the video even more accessible.

3. Schedule ‘repeating’ social media content

Take time now to create and schedule repeating social media content that relates to COVID-19 local guidance and signposting. This could save your officers valuable time later having to reactively respond to lots of repetitive questions. For example, create a series of posts that signpost residents to local services, volunteer hubs, national guidance, etc, and schedule those to re-appear on your social media accounts frequently – perhaps once a week per post. This will ensure you are able to repeat key messages using content that will remain consistent throughout lockdown. Facebook, for example, has a built-in scheduling tool to help you do this, and third-party scheduling software such as Hootsuite and Buffer are also available.

4. Hold a series of ‘Facebook Live’ events

Facebook’s live video tool is a fantastic way to reach out to a large audience in your community quickly. Better still – it’s free! Using Facebook Live to give residents frequent updates on the latest lockdown guidance worked well for a number of councils in the first lockdown, and will work for yours now. Facebook treats live videos as being the most engaging types of content, and so these live videos will be seen by even more of your followers, both during the live event and afterwards. It’s best done by a Councillor, perhaps a Chair or Mayor, but could equally be carried out by a Clerk or another officer as well. Watch our latest blog post on going live on Facebook for an example.

5. Stream your council’s meetings to social media

Speaking of live videos… Most council’s now use Zoom or similar digital conferencing platforms to host their meetings. It is very simple to stream your Zoom meetings, for example, directly onto your council’s official Facebook page. This makes the meetings accessible to a far larger audience, and councils have found this significantly helps to drive positive engagement with the community. Lockdown is an anxious and stressful time for many in your community. Hearing that their local council is not only still meeting, but also trying out new ways to communicate, is very reassuring for residents and this will be appreciated.

6. Send regular e-Newsletter bulletins

An increasing number of parish and town councils communicate directly with their residents by sending out regular e-newsletters. If you haven’t already done so, setting up an e-newsletter now, getting residents to sign up and then sending out meaningful content is something that residents will readily welcome. It will also enable your council to engage with residents more effectively in future. If you already have an e-newsletter facility, send out a special message as soon as possible this week, signposting residents to official national and local guidance, as well as local support services where possible.

National Webinar: strategies and tactics to communicate effectively during and post lockdown

Throughout November we’re also holding free communications webinars for councils, which Clerks and other Officers are welcome to attend. Find out more and register here.

We’re running the same webinar four times, to ensure you have an opportunity to join. Even if you can’t attend in person, feel free to still register and we’ll send you the recording afterwards.

In this webinar we will go into much more depth about our 6 Point Plan, as well as offer other practical ideas and strategies for communicating during the November lockdown, and beyond.

If you have any questions, email us at hello@breakthroughcomms.co.uk or book a free Zoom call to speak with us directly. We’d be delighted to help if we can.

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