Running a budget consultation online is a great move and we want to help Councils and residents get the best return on their investment. Below are a series of tried and tested ideas that will help you gain a great response with your Budget Simulator.
1. Place a direct link on your Council’s home page to the Simulator
A seemingly obvious thing to point out, but this is an easy way to boost the success of your consultation. The home page is invariably the busiest on a Council’s website. Even if a resident is visitin for some other reason, they might see the link to your budget consultation and click through to it.
2. Organize a press briefing with local press
All publicity is good publicity and many residents are likely to read a local newspaper every day. Covering all local channels of communication available to you is the best way to ensure a wide variety of people have an opportunity to hear about and use your Budget Simulator. If they run the story, ask them to link to your Simulator from their website – this will boost your SEO.
3. Run a news story in your community newsletter
Residents often expect to hear from Councils through newsletters – which makes it one of the best ways to let your residents know about your Simulator. Be sure to include the URL of the Simulator and tell people the benefits of engaging on the budget.
4. Put up a banner at council offices reminding people about the Simulator
Council staff tend to be some of the most actively engaged of all local residents. Ensuring that staff and visitors know about the consultation is a great way to boost your response levels. They’ll probably go home and tell their friends and family about the Simulator, too!
Making the most of in-house resources
5. Offer a prize-draw for all participants
It doesn’t need to be something grand or expensive, but offering a small incentive is a good way to show your appreciation for people getting involved. Good examples are vouchers to spend at a music store or supermarket – something everyone could do with.
6. Email your Citizen’s Panel
Citizen’s Panels are fantastic – a pool of actively engaged individuals that are ready and willing to let you know their thoughts on the Council’s actions. Be sure to let them know early so that they can spread the word further for you. They’ll appreciate the opportunity to engage using something different.
7. Distribute leaflets to Council tenants, local voluntary and charity organisations, visitors to local libraries and Parish Councils
Any location where local residents congregate offers an opportunity for engagement. By distributing a small leaflet detailing that a Budget Consultation is being held, where they can access it and why they might want to contribute, you can boost the number and diversity of respondents. Promoting your Simulator at local libraries has another benefit, too: people who may not have a computer at home may use a library PC to participate in the Simulator.
8. Send an email to members of your Council mailing list
A mailing list represents a bank of individuals who have opted-in to be contacted about council affairs. The great thing about contacting people by email is that they are only one click away from accessing your Budget Simulator – making it easier for them to get involved.
Contacting local networks – spreading the word
9. Send an online news release to local media and blogs
You’d be surprised what a quick trawl of the web can find. Most areas have bloggers that discuss local issues. Whatever their blog covers, there’s a good chance they’ll be interested in linking to your Budget Simulator. Pop them an email and ask them if they’d like to link to it from their blog – again, this will help to boost SEO for the consultation.
10. Post link from the Council Twitter and/or Facebook account
Social media usage in government is on the rise. With many people including a Facebook visit every time they log on to the internet, it’s important to link people to your online consultation from your Council’s social media accounts. If you don’t have a Facebook or Twitter account, it’s time to make one!
11. Demonstrate the Simulator at town hall meetings or universities
Using a projector to display and demonstrate your Budget Simulator has been done before to great effect. It’s both a great visual aid to discussing budget decisions, and a great chance to talk to people face to face about how they can have their say on the budget.
12. Consider using Google Adwords
You can run a short term campaign for people searching for your Council’s name + e.g “finance” or “budget”. There might be a whole host of reasons people are searching for this term, and with a little work you can ensure that the link to your Budget Simulator is at the top of the search rankings every time.
13. Use Analytics or search your Budget Simulator’s URL
Being able to see where you’re receiving traffic from helps you make the most out of your exposure on the web. Maybe there’s an opportunity to engage with the conversation on a website that you didn’t even know existed. With something like Google Analytics, you can do this for free.
14. Consult on meaningful issues
Your residents are likely to feel more empowered to discuss the budget when the issues are of relative importance. The more people that feel passionate about the areas available for consultation, the higher the response levels your Simulator will achieve.
15.Demonstrate how you’ve listened
By including previous consultation findings and the actions that your Council took to address those issues, the more residents will feel that their contribution to the Simulator will bring about benefits to the community.
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