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2011

Office of

Year in Review

Public Communications

In 2011, the Office of Public Communications experienced what surely must have been one of its busiest and most challenging years. Even while handling very public issues such as annexation, recall, elections and a dramatic reorganization, PubComm staff provided comprehensive marketing support to city departments and programs. Our work with Parks & Recreation alone amounted to a complete marketing makeover. We helped unveil a new annual event and a new recreational facility. And more people engaged with the city in honest and transparent fashion than ever before. The Public Communications staff proudly presents this 2011 Year in Review.


...You have been a very effective bridge between the “technical” side and the “public information” side and as such you’ve made my job much easier and served a vital public function...” David M. Coleman, PE Director, Water Services

I cannot say enough about the great help your Department has been in the success of the Parks and Recreation Department’s move to re-establish and market itself...The Public Communications Department staff are definitely our ‘Stars of the Year.’” David Schmitz, CPRP Director, Parks & Recreation

...The collaboration and cooperation between your staff and our Public Information Officer has been invaluable in our efforts to keep our media outlets and our citizens updated and informed of major events occurring within our city...” Jeff Capps Chief of Police

The bike map project would not have been possible without the help of the Public Communications... Thank you for helping to make it easier for our citizens to get around on their bikes!” Venessa Garza Greenways Program Manager, Planning & Development Services

...You are clearly committed to ensuring we have access to all available marketing resources through your department and are knowledgeable on the benefits of each one...You have a great team built of forward-thinking members...” Jana Church Kids Klub Program Director, Parks & Recreation


2011 Year in Review

Contents Media Relations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Public Relations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Social Media . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Website . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Marketing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Parks & Recreation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Video. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Staff . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Media Survey Results . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19


Oct. 19 4

Mayor Nancy Berry answers questions at the B-CS Chamber Week proclamation


Media Relations Media Survey results*

Media tone in CS stories

PubComm is helpful to my reporting PubComm meets my expectations

Annexation & Recall

PubComm responds promptly

College Station faced many

PubComm is trustworthy

challenges related to the Wellborn

City news sources meet expectations

annexation, including media and

City news sources are pleasant

POSITIVE NEUTRAL NEGATIVE

City news sources are trustworthy

638 1,838 365

citizens understanding annexation

22% 65% 13%

and recall, and active participation in recall efforts by a council member. Our primary media strategy was to

* See page 19 for complete results

present the city as a voice of reason willing to compromise to resolve

Newspaper

editorials*

conflicts. By contrast, Citizens for

Most covered categories

01/30 CS, residents are being held hostage

Total CS-referred news articles

04/17 Time for city, Wellborn to work together

Individual media interactions

Wellborn responded with harsh

2,841 > 5,000

05/01 College Station residents should vote against council member recall

Police-reactive

08/02 CS should sell its excess properties

Unemployment rates

10/23 Voters should keep CS elections in May

City Council

- - - - City Council Guest Columns - - - -

General city reference

08/26 It’s right to let CS voters decide - B. Brick

Economic development

10/27 Vote against keeping May CS elections - J. Fields

Municipal Court

* In the Bryan-College Station Eagle

Total

853 583 327 168 165 160

29% 20% 11% 6% 6% 5% 77%

rhetoric, enhancing the city’s more diplomatic position. PubComm hosted a January annexation seminar for media to help reporters accurately portray the city’s responsibilities, which resulted in mostly positive coverage. Stories on the recall campaign also tended to favor the city’s position.

Result? Recall was defeated. 5


July 13 6

The City Manager blogs on reorganization

cstx.gov/blogs


Public Relations Annexation 101 With the assistance of Planning and Development Services, Public Communications conducted a seminar for local media about the annexation process. As a result, a better-informed media produced more accurate stories leading up to the eventual annexation of the Wellborn area in April. The majority of the media coverage regarding the annexation favored the city’s position.

Harvey Mitchell Parkway wildfire In September, Public Communications assisted the Fire Department with public and media relations when a dangerous wildfire threatened neighborhoods near Harvey Mitchell Parkway and State Highway 6. Through frequent social media updates, citizens and media received timely information about the fire’s progress, assistance for area residents and road closures.

City blogs A total of 92 staff blogs were posted, along with 12 city council posts, resulting in more than 25,000 views. The city manager’s blog on reorganization in July resulted in 1,400 views, while the top council blog was “A Perspective on Wellborn” by John Crompton, which had 1,200 views. The blogs addressed a wide range of topics, including detailed coverage of council meetings, and helped reduce the amount of misinformation posted in other online forums.

Temporary electric bill increases CSU was forced to offset the costs of February’s rolling brownouts with temporary increases in utility bills. Public Communications led a public relations effort that fully disclosed the reasons behind the adjustment through media coverage, social media and a letter to utility customers. Through this honest and transparent approach, the expected negative public reaction was kept to a minimum.

Special recall election Efforts to recall the mayor and two council members, and the active involvement in the recall by a sitting council member, presented a daunting challenge. Public Communications formulated a positive response that was a stark contrast to the harsh rhetoric of the pro-recall group. Local media outlets were almost unanimous in supporting the position that the recall was unwarranted and it was overwhelmingly defeated in the May special election.

City Reorganization In July, the city manager announced a major reorganization that trimmed $1.5 million, but unfortunately included layoffs. PubComm helped craft an honest, proactive PR strategy highlighting the move’s positive aspects and helped portray the city manager as a strong leader capable of making difficult but necessary decisions. A high degree of transparency and sensitivity was required to describe what was being done to assist affected employees. The resulting media coverage was more positive than anticipated, with many highlighting the prudent saving of taxpayer dollars. The city blog was the primary vehicle used to communicate the changes, resulting in the city’s two most highly-read posts.

Result? The media focused on savings. 7


July 1 8

G. Hysmith Skate Park photo set on Flickr

flickr.com/photos/collegestation


Social Media 2,460 NEW likes

1,396

NEW followers

12,526

NEW photo views

12,485

NEW video views

18,518

NEW blog views

2,880

TOTAL subscribers

Power outages

Crisis Communication Social media isn’t just for marketing, but also for crisis communication. In February, PubComm used Facebook and Twitter as primary means of updating the public about rolling brownouts and which neighborhoods would be affected. When a wildfire led to the evacuation of several neighborhoods and trailer parks in September, we successfully used social media to inform the public of In February, ERCOT ordered rolling brownouts across the state, including College Station, in the middle of an icy winter storm. Public Communications resorted to social media as the primary means to communicate with residents in advance about which neighborhoods would be affected next, along with road condition advisories and other pertinent information. The city gained 683 Facebook fans that week, showing the effectiveness and popularity of these outlets.

the fire’s progress, where affected residents could go for help, and road closures, which was especially important on a Texas A&M football game day. All social media assets

Skate Park naming contest In August, Public Communications facilitated a naming contest for the new skate park through its social media outlets. More than 90 responses were received on Facebook. A large majority favored naming it after the young man who inspired the park after succumbing to cancer six years ago. In September, it was officially named the G. Hysmith Skate Park in an emotional ceremony attended by the Hysmith family.

were used throughout the year to provide updates on traffic issues and minor water and power outages.

Result? More citizens were engaged. 9


June 10 10

Public Communications launches a new mobile website platform

cstx.gov


City Website Why is our Website Traffic Down? A funny thing happened as a result of PubComm’s many strategic marketing plans in 2011: The number

Mobile site After months of development, Public Communications unveiled a mobile website in July. The mobile site features easy navigation, including interactive maps to help locate and provide directions to city buildings and facilities. This mobile-friendly site is among the reasons the city’s website experienced about a 146% increase in mobile traffic in 2011 compared to 2010.

of visits to our website declined sharply compared to 2010. So, why are we smiling? Because residents no longer are forced to rely on the website to learn about our special events or breaking news; instead, they turn to us on Twitter, Facebook,

QR codes Those strange-looking squares called Quick Response (QR) codes crept into many of the city’s marketing pieces in 2011. Public Communications began using QR codes as a mobile marketing tool to allow smart-phone users to quickly access very specific information, whether it’s about a Parks program or a city council agenda.

YouTube and so on. New: Those wanting to register for Parks activities no longer fumble through our pages since we now aggressively market a specific registration website that bypasses our own. So, our web

SeeClickFix Spearheaded by Planning & Development Services, this online code violation reporting system has reshaped the city’s approach to code enforcement. With PubComm’s assistance in gaining media attention to the new tool, plus creating a direct link from the city’s new mobile website, SeeClickFix has become an efficient way to resolve problems and engage with citizens.

numbers may be declining, but user success and satisfaction is way up.

Result? A more efficient website. 11


July 25 12

The city publishes its first community bike map

cstx.gov/bikepedgreenways


Marketing Bike Map College Station’s growing commitment to bicycle and pedestrian paths was reflected in 2011 with development of an extremely useful map that helps users find the best route and distance for their journey. Map creation was a collaborative endeavor among Public Communications, Planning & Development Services and Geographic Information Services.

Making Amends

Employee Recruiting

Several years ago, College Station lost its ad space above the baggage

+

claim area at Easterwood Airport, and Bryan smartly seized the opportunity to promote itself in that location. In 2011, PubComm initiated an effort that included the City of Bryan and

Human Resources was faced with recruiting several high-profile positions, and turned to Public Communications to develop materials that would stand out from other cities. The result was a series of very non-traditional fliers and business-card pieces that conveyed College Station as an innovative and — dare we say? — fun employer.

Clear Channel Airport Advertising to rework contracts that resulted in the two cities sharing costs of a design that jointly promotes B-CS.

Fire Station No. 6 Public Communications provided a wide range of support to the Fire Department ahead of its Station 6 construction beginning in fall 2011. Graphic and web design, media relations, notification of public meetings, event coordination and other services were provided to CSFD that culminated with a groundbreaking ceremony that featured participation from nearby residents.

The new artwork appears above the baggage claim, with additional messages appearing on two video screens that welcome visitors to the community.

Northgate parking Ahead of each semester, an aggressive marketing effort has been commissioned to sell parking spaces inside the Northgate Parking Garage. Public Communications coordinated a series of Facebook ads that was very specific in the demographic targeted. The effort translated into the desired spikes of traffic to the city’s Northgate Parking web page.

Result? A bigger, bolder presence. 13


December 2 14

The city hosts its new “Christmas at the Creek� event

cstx.gov/christmas


Parks & Recreation Aquatics

Activity Guides Parks & Recreation knows how to For the first time, Public Communications was asked to create a cohesive marketing plan for the city’s aquatics facilities and programs. An innovative, interactive aquatics guide was created for the city’s website, along with a video tour of Adamson’s Lagoon. In addition, the activities were aggressively pushed through social media and through traditional marketing platforms. As a result, use of swimming pools and programs increased 23 percent.

create fun. Just look at the dizzying amount of programs, events and facilities for youth, adults and seniors. Finding a single source of timely information about Parks & Rec has

Christmas at the Creek After 27 years at Central Park, the city’s annual Christmas event moved to Wolf Pen Creek Park and was rebranded as Christmas at the Creek. Public Communications offered a comprehensive marketing program that helped attract more than 20,000 people to the four event nights in early December, a dramatic increase from the 7,000 that attended the final Christmas in the Park events.

been challenging, but that changed in fall 2011. Through the combined visions of Parks’ new leadership and of PubComm’s creative staff, an activity guide was developed. The first was distributed in the fall, and the second just after the new year. Gone are the traditional Parks calendar and

G. Hysmith Skate Park A special marketing plan was devised for the city’s new skate park, which opened in September. As part of the effort, a special informational web page was developed that included videos, renderings, links and photographs. The materials were widely distributed through the city’s social media channels. In addition, a public contest to name the skate park was conducted through the city’s Facebook page, and a highly successful grand opening festival was

the Xtra Education catalogs. The guide is the most comprehensive publication in Parks & Rec history; plus, printing costs are way down. Pretty green, eh?

Result? Family fun became one. 15


June 21 16

Police Department uses YouTube to bolster recruiting

youtube.com/cityofcollegestation


Video BVCART synopsis In the fall, local law enforcement and other agencies trained and exercised to become a certified Child Abduction Response Team (CART). Not only has Brazos Valley CART become one of the few certified teams in the US, but Public Communications provided comprehensive video support that resulted in a segment that can be used to explain the program and inspire other communities to form similar CARTs.

Police recruiting The Police Department has desperately needed an updated video to help recruit new officers. Public Communications worked with PD staff to formulate a script, interview personnel and document a number of officers on the job. The result is a solid recruiting video that’s available online and can be shared via social media or even displayed at job fairs.

Kids Klub Kids Klub staff approached Public Communications about the challenge they face in letting citizens know that the city administers this long-standing program. Most believe College Station ISD does so. PubComm created a short, informational video that explains the city’s role, the program’s history and the amount of education and fun that’s offered to each participating child.

Setting the Narrative In January, Public Communications began producing regular video segments on Channel 19 / YouTube to give accurate background and context about issues coming before the city council. Agenda Update is a short, biweekly program that outlines major agenda items, while Council Recap is a brief review of council meetings that includes clips of councilmember comments and staff presentations. These programs

Xtra programs

have become a staple of Channel 19 / YouTube programming and are distributed through the city’s blog and other social media. Without a doubt, these programs have reduced online speculation by providing a clearer and more accurate picture of the council’s

Public Communications featured some of Parks & Recreation’s Xtra classes such as Mountain Dulcimer, Ballroom Dancing and Balloon Animals in video segments on Channel 19 and on YouTube. The videos helped reinforce the idea that College Station Parks & Recreation is all about fun.

activities and decisions.

Result? Council decisions have context. 17


2011 Year in Review

Office of Public Communications Jay Socol

Director

Specializes in media relations and developing strategic messaging for city council, City Manager’s Office and city departments.

Colin Killian

Communications & Marketing Specialist

Expertise in media relations, writing, editing and developing both traditional and non-traditional marketing solutions.

Mark Beal

Broadcast Media Specialist

Specializes in shooting/editing video, animation and after-effects.

Chad Cockrum

Broadcast Media Specialist

Specializes in shooting/editing video, photography, and original show concepts and development.

Mike Neu

Multimedia Coordinator

Expertise in graphic design, web development and managing integration of city brand in marketing and media forms.

Lacey Lively

Communications Assistant

Specializes in marketing plan development, execution and analysis.

18


Media Survey Results Summary Among the primary goals for Public Communications in 2011 was to improve the city’s relationship with local media. This survey (Aug. 30-Sept. 20) allowed reporters, editors and news directors to anonymously rate the performance, accessibility and trust level of Public Communications. Additional comments provided further insight into strengths and weaknesses of this department and of other city staff and members of the city council.

QUESTION 1

QUESTION 2

Those responsible for handling media relations within College

Those responsible for handling media relations within College

Station’s Office of Public Communications are helpful to my news

Station’s Office of Public Communications meet my expectations

gathering and reporting.

for accessibility:

Comments: “Jay and his crew go above and beyond what any other public information office does in town, especially government-related offices.” “The College Station Office of Public Communications is one of the most open, media friendly I have worked with...” “The philosophy of ‘If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find someone who can,’ truly is carried out by this office.”

19


QUESTION 3

QUESTION 4

Those responsible for handling media relations within College Station’s

Those responsible for handling media relations within College

Office of Public Communications respond to me in timely fashion.

Station’s Office of Public Communications are trustworthy.

QUESTION 5

QUESTION 6

News sources, whether city council or city staff, meet my

News sources, whether city council or city staff, are pleasant to

expectations for accessibility.

deal with.

Comments: “To date, they’ve never tried to manipulate a situation, send us down the wrong path or outright lie.” “Current administration and council are far better at getting in touch with than the previous.” “City council gets a little defensive instead of realizing that we are just gathering information.”

20


QUESTION 7

QUESTION 8

News sources, whether city council or city staff, are trustworthy.

In what areas does College Station’s Office of Public Communications excel in helping you gather and report news? “Keeps us up to date on events...that are important to the city.” “Goes over with the media each agenda item prior to council meetings” “Facilitates interviews with officials throughout City Hall and elsewhere...” “Sends us story ideas and tips.” “Breaks down the more difficult information...” “Seems to own up to even the bad news fairly quickly.” “Seems to stop everything to get us information, no matter how slight.” “Lets us know immediately if something is wrong in a story...” “Offers photo and videos to supplement our website needs.” “Social media allows us to keep up with the breaking info out of CS...” “Notice of meetings, summaries often received after a meeting or event.” “Excellent response time.”

QUESTION 9

QUESTION 10

In what areas does College Station’s Office of Public

What features would you most like to see in an online newsroom?

Communications need the most improvement? “Video. More of it. CS does really well with creative videos and we’d like “Not really sure because compared to other PIO officials in town, CS blows them out of the water.”

to see more.” “Much of this is what you already do, but the blog, news releases, and

“Fair and equal treatment of all media outlets. Some are smaller outlets

b-roll/interviews from city events (such as the skate board park opening)

than others and therefore receive considerably different treatment.”

that we could capture and use for stories in our newscasts and online.”

“I find out information from KBTX before I get press releases from the

“Databases of city employee salaries; complete lists of city departments

City. Wish the city got information out sooner.”

and contact info including email and phone; list of all city council committees, members of each committee, points of contact.”

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City of College Station Public Communications City Hall 1101 Texas Avenue College Station, Texas 77840 979.764.3445 office 979.764.6258 fax cstx.gov

facebook.com/cityofcollegestation twitter.com/cityofcs flickr.com/photos/collegestation youtube.com/cityofcollegestation cstx.gov/blogs

Public Communications Year in Review  

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