City Manager Dave Ruller of Kent, Ohio: using a blog to teach

Kent Ohio City Manager Dave RullerDave Ruller is City Manager of Kent, Ohio and maintains a blog at Kent360.

Last week he published a blog post titled Managing snow and it caught my eye because it’s a good example of What to Blog for a local government leader: Use your blog to teach about a service, program, or department.

After what turned out to be a terrific Fall, I guess Winter had to eventually arrive, and in case you hadn’t noticed — it’s here.  The official start of Winter is still a couple of weeks off but that doesn’t seem all that relevant at the moment with snow piling up outside my window as I type this post.  We’ve got ourselves a good old fashioned snowfall with big lake effect flakes piling up and creating havoc with our streets. 

He then goes into great detail about the city’s snow-related policies, since there were some significant changes in the past year. Most important, he uses an informal conversational tone in his writing that makes it a much more interesting read for a local citizen.

We do our best to break a truck off the primaries to punch a hole through the middle of the neighborhood streets (often just a single lane) but until the weather breaks and gives us a chance to catch up, the neighborhoods will be challenging to get through. 

I love that line: "break a truck off the primaries to punch a hole…" You just know that wasn’t written by a communications staffer. A voice of authenticity indeed.

Here’s my little treatise on why using a blog in this way is important for a local government leader:

Local government web sites usually provide an overwhelming amount of information on the services, programs and departments that serve the public.  This is usually in static form: HTML pages, PDF documents, pages of internal and external links.

But people still like to learn from other people. The demand for teachers (at all levels) is not diminishing in this age of information ubiquity. And a blog post, written in the conversational tone of a personable teacher, can be the next best thing to a face-to-face conversation where the information is conveyed. (It also offers some things that a F2F conversation doesn’t typically offer, namely links for the interested reader who wants to go deeper, and a record of the information that can be referred back to at one’s leisure.)

So if you’re a government leader, use your blog regularly to teach. Help citizens see what their tax dollars are being spent on and the benefits accruing from it. Wrap your message around a recent story involving the names of people involved, if possible. Use photos and images to attract attention as well as to inform. And link, link, link – to web pages on your own organization’s web site as well as to other sites so people can easily go deeper if they want.

In the future when you need to revisit some aspect of the service, program, or department, you don’t need to repeat yourself.  Just link to your own original post and expand from there.