EL SEGUNDO, Calif., April 5, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Government website and software experts at Vision, today kicked off National County Government Month by issuing a new eBook entitled "What's Next in Digital Communications for County Government." The eBook shares insights gleaned from Vision's third annual local government survey and highlights subtle differences in the ways cities and counties are addressing the rapidly changing expectations of today's super-connected citizens.
Top digital priorities county gov leaders identified for 2017 include citizen engagement, cybersecurity and the integration of mobile-ready website design. A copy of the new county government eBook, is now available for download at http://info.visioninternet.com/whats-next-in-digital-communications-report-county-2017.
"With expansive territories and universal service responsibilities, counties are challenged to keep pace with new technologies that enable them to connect with citizens like never before," said Ashley Fruechting, Vision's senior director of marketing. "County leaders take seriously their responsibility to protect and enhance the welfare and safety of their residents."
While counties and municipalities work hand-in-hand on many fronts, Vision found the following key differences in their approach to digital transformation.
1. Citizen Engagement Challenges for County Government
None of the county respondents to the Vision survey rated their agency as "outstanding" in effective citizen engagement. Moreover, 1 in 4 county participants said their agency's efforts to engage citizens were "below average" or "poor."
While county responsibilities vary from state to state, most counties manage justice and public safety systems, foster conditions for economic growth and strengthen infrastructure, which are less visible and immediate than municipal services like city schools, garbage collection and ongoing recreational programs.
"Being farther removed from residents' day-to-day activities makes it harder for counties to establish the kinds of emotional connections required for citizen engagement," Fruechting said.
"Building community engagement takes time, so county leaders can begin by regularly asking residents for opinions on small, everyday issues. They can nurture the habit of engagement by sharing how resident feedback impacts county decisions, and by using blogs and videos to help tell stories better."
2. County Websites are the Hub in the Wheel of Digital Government
For the third straight year, the vast majority of survey participants described their agency website as "integral to their overall communications and public service strategy," with 90 percent of county respondents deeming their websites as either "essential" or "important," compared to 96 percent of municipal respondents.
"Our website is like a calling card for the county," said a county communications director from Arizona.
County officials are aware of the need to continue to evolve and improve their websites, however. Only 24 percent rated their agency website one of their most "highly effective" channels of communications, a number that was comparable to their municipal counterparts. The good news is nearly 3 times that many respondents (71%) believe their websites will be one of their most effective means of communicating with residents in 5 years.
A widespread challenge is still evident as county participants rated how well their websites allow visitors to conduct business online. Only 9 percent gave their website an "outstanding" rating, while 17 percent said their website was "below average" or "poor."
3. Counties Are Slower to Embrace Social Media
Social media was a top area identified by county leaders for expansion or investment in 2017. Seventy-eight percent of county leaders said social media is impacting their operations today, compared to 90 percent for municipal respondents.
A county IT developer from Arizona said, "Social media may be used less often by counties because we have fewer upcoming events and activities to promote. Cities provide services that are closer to home and of more immediate interest to local residents. Also, citizens probably identify themselves more with their city than their county and, as a result, they may follow their city more than their county on social media."
"County leaders are aware that the relationship between citizens and government is evolving," Fruechting said. "The good news from this year's survey is that local leaders are increasingly aware of the innovative tools and technologies now available to help them improve residents' quality of life."
For more information about Vision's transformative technology, or to request a free website review and consultation, please call 888-263-8847 or visit info.visioninternet.com/free-consultation.
Headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., Vision is a national leader in government website design, development and hosting with more than 700 government, non-profit and education clients in U.S. and Canadian communities with populations that range from less than 1,000 residents to more than 5 million. For more than 20 years, Vision has created cost-effective solutions that increase government efficiency, build transparency and promote interactive communications with citizens. The company's powerful, easy-to-use subscription-based content management system, visionLive™, keeps local government websites relevant and effective; and the new visionPulse™ community engagement platform enables local governments to gather feedback on important issues. For the second year in a row, Vision has been named to Government Technology magazine's GovTech 100, a listing of leading companies developing innovative or disruptive offerings to improve or transform government. The company also was named a top 10 company serving local government by Engaging Local Government Leaders in its 2016 ELGL Choice Awards.
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