Coordinating Communication with the City of Springfield
As the City of Springfield plans major projects, it asks for community feedback. Keeping the public engaged is no small task.
By Ettie Berneking
Cora Scott, director of public information and civic engagement, and Kristen Milam, communications coordinator, worked with Steve Prange, vice president and regional office manager of Crawford, Murphy & Tilly Engineers & Consultants, to come up with a strategy to hold the public’s attention and get their feedback on a range of topics relating to the growth and future of Springfield.
Tip 1: Alert the Media
To make sure you get plenty of eyes on your project, Scott and Milam say it’s crucial to loop in local media outlets. “We start by alerting the media, and then we use multiple communications strategies from door-to-door to print and electronic media,” Scott says.
Tip 2: Make it Clear Why People Should Care
“Make sure you’re clear why you’re collecting input and what you're going to do with it,” Scott says. Prange also suggests ensuring your audience understands why they should care about the project. “They need to understand it’s worth their while,” he says. “If they’re going to take time out of their day, we need to make sure they get something out of it too.”
Tip 3: Gather Input Across Platforms
“One thing we learned from the pandemic is we can utilize electronic media more than we thought,” Scott says. By offering livestream and Zoom sessions, the city was able to reach a larger audience than usual. Scott says usually 50 people attend a meeting, but a livestream event brought in 500. The city also gathered input by encouraging its audience to send in comments. “[Audience members] go on their phones and submit questions and comments, so they can see their response on the screen in live time,” Milam says.
Tip 4: Show Progress
Once you’ve made progress on your project, share that with your audience. This keeps them engaged and encourages them to give feedback. “It’s a continual dialogue,” Prange says. That feedback can be critical to maintaining public engagement. “We find the public wants to see the fruit of their input quickly,” Milam says.
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