Part of your responsibility as an elected official is to inform the public about what you and the county are doing on their behalf. To fulfill this responsibility, it is a good idea to develop a workable personal communications plan each year. Having a plan will help you to focus on important objectives, ensure that accomplishments are communicated effectively to the public and prepare you to handle any public relations challenges that arise. Ideally, your county has – or should have – a media relations policy and a social media policy in place. If it does, be sure you are familiar with it and adhere to it. If it does not, or it is in need of major revision, consider leading that effort.
Developing your personal communications plan is not as difficult as it may sound. It can be as basic or elaborate as you want. A simple way to approach this is to sit down each year and:
- determine your goals
- develop key headline messages to support your goals
- identify specific audiences you want to reach such as seniors, employers, educators, students and community groups
- develop key secondary messages to appeal to those specific audiences, and
- consider all communications tools available and determine which are most appropriate for you to use to reach specific audiences.
A critical part of your plan is communicating through the local news media. At the very minimum, you should:
- know the key reporters, editors, columnists, broadcasters and bloggers in your area
- closely follow what is being reported in the local news even if it’s not directly related to county government programs and services
- have a sense of how the community is reacting to certain news stories and controversies
- avoid common media relations errors, and
- not lose any sleep over your media coverage or lack of it.
The Media Relations Guide for Counties was developed to assist county officials in strengthening their communications skills to improve local media coverage. NACo has other resources available, including media relations workshops, webinars and “take home” news releases to report your NACo activities.