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Event Recap: Improving Digital Engagement in South Florida

Citizens are using new ways to engage amongst themselves, and they expect the public sector to keep pace with them. That was just one of the takeaways at last week’s Granicus’ Digital Engagement Day in sunny Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The event was attended by a number of clerks and communications professionals from cities and counties in South Florida. Among them were Kathleen Woods-Richardson of Miramar, Florida, and John Cimbaro, a biologist at Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, who spoke on our client panel. The two answered questions about how they’re improving the citizen experience through better communication tools and strategy—and how they overcame obstacles to progress.

Miramar Streamlines Its Processes

Miramar, Florida (population: 122,000) is a great city, said City Manager Kathleen Woods-Richardson, but its legislative documentation and communication strategy were all over the place. Some departments printed out documents, others posted flyers and some were already putting items online. Council meetings relied heavily on paper documentation.

The city wanted to make its processes easier to manage and more accessible to the public, so they started using Granicus solutions, including GovDelivery Communication Cloud and Meetings and Agenda tools.

“When we switched to Granicus, it took us to another level,” Woods-Richardson said. “Having a system where everyone can access what they need and make changes at their own level of authority made life a dream.”

She said Granicus solutions were invaluable during Hurricane Irma, when excessive rainfall caused a sewage spill in one part of the city. As city manager, Woods-Richardson knew they had to get the right information in the hands of affected citizens as soon as possible. They were able to draw up a communication plan, get the information on the city website and send updates.

“When you have bad news, you want to be the first one to get it out and get ahead of it,” she said. “It would have been a media nightmare without Granicus.”

Of course, with a change in tools and process comes resistance. “Change is normally your greatest obstacle,” Woods-Richardson said. But with training, ongoing support, and—crucially—buy-in from some tech-savvy elected officials, they’ve been able to implement Granicus successfully.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Is Getting People Outside

Americans live increasingly urbanized lives, disconnected with the nature surrounding us. Despite that, Florida is filled with lush forests, pristine lakes and rivers, and gorgeous ocean shores—and Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wanted people to get to those places and enjoy it.

Despite being “just a biologist,” John Cimbaro was tasked with using email newsletters to engage an audience interested in freshwater fishing. With limited time and resources, the commissison turned to Granicus’ GovDelivery Communications Cloud.

With very little marketing of the freshwater fishing list, it launched with more than 4,000 subscriptions. While not a comms professional, Cimbaro called the process of sending out emails “very easy.”

With an influx of immigration and Florida’s changing demographics, the freshwater fishing list comes at the perfect time to capture a new audience that might already be interested in the topic but needs information on how to best take advantage of Florida’s abundant natural resources.

Florida F&W’s overall use of email appears to be successful, too: It has seen its subscriber base increased by a factor of 10 since switching to GovDelivery.

Beyond the Panel

Several people from Granicus spoke at the Digital Engagement Day, offering best practices and tips. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Government is at a crossroads: Budgets are limited and there’s more noise to cut through than ever, but citizens expect the public sector to engagement efficiently and effectively.
  • Even if you’re not a public affairs officer, you’re still engaging with citizens and need to be able to communicate your objectives.
  • ADA compliance is huge: Cities and counties are increasingly being hit with ADA lawsuits regarding access to public information, such as closed captioning on videos. Granicus offers several add-on tools that can help meet accessibility requirements of the law.
  • Treat communication and engagement as a public service you need to provide: Subscribers are people that raise their hand to get information from your agency or department. Make sure you’re following through with your end of the bargain.

Want to learn more about how you can use Granicus solutions to improve digital engagement with citizens? Contact us at info@granicus.com.