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Are You a Municipal Influencer?


Some of us older municipal managers may not know exactly what an influencer is nowadays. In days past, we might have considered them a form of troublemaker. However, in today’s world, the term influencer has taken on a whole new meaning – or two meanings, as the case may be.


An influencer today can be someone who inspires others to take action. Or, as you’ll often see in social media today, influencers can be marketers – people who use their platform or status to promote a brand.


You may not realize it, but municipal managers are also influencers.


Think about the manager's role at a Township or Borough meeting. The supervisors or Council should regularly look to the manager's information and options in order for them to make the best decisions. During my tenure as a manager, Council regularly would make the following comment. “I would like to hear the manager’s take on this situation.” One of the critical factors, in my opinion, when faced with this public meeting pressure, is to remind yourself that you do not vote. You are not an elected official, but you are responsible to the governing body. I had a technique that I regularly used during meetings with possible contentious issues at hand. I would deliberately ask participants questions that I already knew the answer to. I did this because I wanted the Council to glean the answer for themselves. Sometimes I would quiz the zoning officer by asking them if changing the zoning requirements would have a residual effect on some other portion of the ordinance. Of course, I knew the answer, but by the council hearing this, they could make better decisions based on this thinking. They typically are not as fully engaged in the finer details of ordinances and rely upon the team to provide this information. This is an excellent example of influencing by guiding the actions of others.


The manager's ability to inspire municipal employees is another illustration of influence that can improve the overall operation of the municipality. I found that recognizing an employee's work boosted their desire to do even better. Also, fitting an employee into a responsibility they take seriously provided for outstanding results in the end. Let those who are motivated take the lead. Knowing that they are a leader in a small project boosts their pride and desire to achieve. Be sure to give others similar opportunities. If you rotate this procedure, it builds teamwork amongst the workforce. Everyone wants the chance to be the boss, and this technique allows for employees to feel valued.


So managers are influencers in the legislative process and influencers in the workplace. But they are also influencers as marketers. It’s no secret that in today’s digital world, Townships and Boroughs really do need to market themselves. You may recall an early post that referred to giving people a reason to live in your community. How do you set yourself apart from all the other nearby municipalities? A good manager builds on the strengths of the community and promotes it as a means of helping the council or supervisors achieve their goals. For example, if you have a lakeside community, you can promote the amenities that come with it. Perhaps you have a growing commercial area and can draw in additional growth due to its up-and-coming popularity. Those with a quality rural style of life can easily promote that aspect. Think outside the box and find those niches that make you unique and build upon them. The trick is to get that word out. Contact the local news media and get your area to be recognized. Social media is another excellent way to attract people to see what you have to offer. Our area capitalized on the winter weather and transformed a park into a winter wonderland with cross-country skiing, sled dog races, snowshoeing, sled riding, fat tire biking, and more. The volunteer fire department built a restaurant in close proximity, which indeed became a win/win for everyone. By collaborating in this fashion and using the influence that local government can exude, the area is now a popular destination for locals and out of towners alike.


So yes, managers and municipal leaders are influencers in their own right. You may not have a million followers on your Instagram account, but with some promotion and creativity, you can inspire and encourage others inside and outside your community. Be an influencer in your community – promote it and market it to bring about desired improvements and changes that will set you apart.


Let’s “fire this thing up” and get that Township TikTok video uploaded showing dancing sled riders at your municipal park. Didn't think of that one, did you?

 

About the Author

David L. Anthony is a member of the Keystone Municipal Solutions team of experts. He is a veteran of municipal government, having served more than 32 years in various positions of public service. Contact him at david@keystonemunicipalsolutions.com. To learn more about David and the Keystone Municipal Solutions team, click here.

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