Community Engagement

City Hall in Dover, New Hampshire.

The City of Dover faces the same challenges that other municipalities and businesses do when intending to communicate with an audience. The advent of the internet has reduced marginal distribution costs to nearly zero, a significant cost reduction from the previous expense of creating and distributing content via television, radio, or print. Today, anyone equipped with a keyboard can create and disseminate content for free through a blog post or on social media. As a consequence, supply is unlimited, and demand (attention) is at a premium. Much of the City’s communications are done online, and the City must compete with an infinite amount of content in user timelines that it does not control.

The City makes a sincere effort to provide an abundance of information, but its discoverability poses a challenge. Amidst the vast amount of information shared, it can be difficult for an individual to naturally come across content that interests them. It is also unintuitive to subscribe to updates. This sometimes leads to calls for increased transparency or misunderstandings about intent. It is valuable, actionable feedback. As a city, our challenge in Dover is to respond to today’s information-dense environment with a content strategy that connects with a larger audience, reaches them on their preferred platforms, and aligns with their interests to ensure engagement with content in the future.

Internet and Social Media

Interest-based Subscriptions

The City of Dover already offers curated newsletters, such as the Dover Download, and also produces the Dover Download podcast. These are valuable sources of content that have an existing audience. One way to further enhance the value of the newsletter is to search for Facebook groups where posts generate engagement. In this regard, a question was recently asked in “The (un)Official City of Dover, NH” Facebook group:

Does anyone know why they are cutting down the trees on arch street??? 2 have been fully cut down and they are heavily trimming another, maybe cutting that down too. 😢😢

In its first 24 hours, the question eared 27 comments. People in Dover have interest in the answer. It is great feeder content for the City’s email newsletter and social media.


The City of Dover has a webpage dedicated to video. Communicating in short-form videos will deliver appreciable benefits. First, it will ease the barrier of accessing content. Videos are an engaging format and more appealing than long-form text. Second, videos put faces to the work being done. That is good for building relationships. Third, Facebook rewards videos as a content medium and will show the City’s content more frequently.

  • What is happening?
  • What is the impact?
  • What do I need to do (if anything)?
  • What happens next (if relevant)?
  • Where can I get more information?

More Two-way Dialogue

When using social media, a crucial factor in attracting engagement is the “social” component, which implies two-way communication. However, the City of Dover only utilizes social media for announcements, resulting in one-way, asynchronous dialogue. While adhering to given legal obligations regarding the City’s use of social media, it may be beneficial for the City to adopt a service-oriented mindset, engaging in feedback exchange with its audience. This approach could potentially attract a larger following and enhance awareness.

The City of Dover’s public Facebook page has 9.7K followers, while “The (un)Official City of Dover, NH” is a private group with 14K members. The unofficial brand presence has a significantly larger audience than the brand itself.

Increasing two-way communication involves engaging with Facebook users who comment on the City’s posts. This may also include the City actively participating in Facebook groups that are not directly managed by the City. In order to foster an open exchange of information, the goal should be to connect with people where they are and respond to their feedback.

Other Opportunities

Gathering feedback in real-time is instructive. When a resident or business says, “The City is not being transparent,” or misunderstands the intended meaning of a communication, it is an opportunity to ask and learn. This will help all City departments increase transparency and clarity. It does not mean that everyone will agree on a given decision or action, but there will be more shared comprehension.

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