In communications, especially public relations, we talk a lot about the importance of knowing your target audience. Casting too big of a net can backfire just as easily as if you don’t know what platform to use to reach your intended audience online.
The same goes for reaching people offline as well.
The City of Dallas recently unveiled its “City Hall on the Go,” an internet enabled van, which is scheduled to start hitting city streets soon. This van will travel throughout neighborhoods to give people the ability to access the internet, pay utility bills, request city services – such as pothole repairs or even register their pet.
Some people might scoff and ask why a municipality as large as Dallas has outfitted a van to deliver city services, including internet services. Yet remember, there are seasoned people who grew up well before the digital revolution took over the world. Older folks, like my parents’ generation, feel much more comfortable dealing one-on-one with another human being to pay their bills or have city service needs addressed. What I can understand and learn in five minutes, might take my mom more than two hours and repeated repetition to remember.
A video highlighting the city’s newest outreach arsenal showcases what services people can take care of when the mobile city hall rolls through their neighborhood’s streets.
The city’s Community Engagement Coordinator points out many citizens do not have access to the internet or even own a working computer. Other argue, well that’s what libraries are for. Yes, they have a point. That is part of a library’s duties is to provide computers for public use, but many times librarians are busy with other patrons checking out books, answering reference questions or other administrative functions to help each and every person use the internet.
Other times it’s a logistical nightmare to get downtown to city hall. If you have a disability, have transportation woes or low on money it’s much easier to visit a mobile unit than travel several miles downtown.
More importantly, it makes people feel like their city is really considering their needs. Often times municipal government get a bad reputation of putting elected officials wants’ before the citizens’ needs or always raising taxes. By going out into the community to provide convenient services it shows the taxpayers, the city leaders truly care about serving them.
After all – working in municipal government should not be about power, but rather providing a community service, no matter what level of government you are at.
Computers can do a lot and might make our world smaller in many ways. Remember we are still human. Communicating in person with another individual is still valued and treasured. Human interaction will always be more powerful than just reaching out through the cyberworld.
I would like to see every major city add a “city hall on wheels” to their outreach arsenal.