Fines, Permits, Bills and Branding: How Holistic Communications Can Help Small Cities Thrive

by Jul 11, 2016Citizen Communication, City Branding, SocialGov

What do permitting processes, business licensing, parking fines, and utility bills have to do with your city’s external reputation?

The answer is, more than you think. Cities can miss out on investment because they don’t know what their residents and business owners are saying about them – especially when it’s not pretty. Outdated regulations and convoluted codes can make starting, growing, and expanding a business in your town frustrating. So much so that new businesses are discouraged from settling within your borders. Legal remodeling and updates on business structures and residences alike can be stalled indefinitely due to permitting processes that never end. Legitimate professionals may refuse to work in your city at all. That leaves owners to turn to illegal contractors and even more problems with The City.

Parking fines and other citations can represent lost revenue simply because they’re difficult to pay. If your city relies on a third-party for these essential services, be sure that the payment interface is user-friendly and mobile ready. Confession time: I got a speeding ticket on a trip to Miami in a remote (to me) area of Georgia. I knew that there is zero likelihood that I would be able to go to court and/or pay the fine in person. Upon reaching my destination, I jumped online to pay off the fine – only to find that the 3rd party provider’s site was down. It wasn’t a fluke – I checked several times over the course of my week-long stay. Sure enough, by the time I returned home, I forgot all about the ticket, until I came across the ticket tucked into a notebook a month later. The moral of this story is that it’s easy to believe that fines and citations remain unpaid because offenders “don’t want” to pay. The reality is that maybe the payment process is getting in the way.

Just as your municipal website is as part of your marketing as the information hub for your city, each online interaction must speak to your attitude towards your businesses and residents. More often than not, citizen communication from City Hall and municipal departments are of the one-way variety. City council meeting dates, upcoming events, and emergency updates – if anyone remembers the login information. Instead, think of your community as a brand, in the way that Coke, Home Depot, Macy’s, and other corporate entities which devote human and financial resources to building relationships that become profitable. Not only will you gain improved engagement from your citizens, you will create more opportunities for honest interactions that lead to participatory decision-making and greater visibility for your departments, services, and officials.

Discover your city’s true story by building relationships with the businesses and residents that create it. A holistic communication infrastructure makes telling that story to private sector investors and grantmaking entities a breeze.