City of Mill Valley. STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS PLAN June 2014 PURPOSE BACKGROUND

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1 City of Mill Valley STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS PLAN June 2014 PURPOSE The strategic communications plan is designed to identify goals and strategies to effectively communicate with community members, drive the development of internal communications policies, and improve the overall effectiveness of the City in meeting the needs of the community. This plan will lay the foundation for future policies and programs and will be a dynamic document reviewed and updated annually in response to ongoing assessment and evaluation. BACKGROUND In 2013, the City Manager appointed a group of staff representatives of all City departments to convene in a Communications Committee to assess the City s needs for better internal and external communications. Despite employing a wide variety of communications strategies to reach intended audiences, the Committee agreed that significant room for improvement in City communications efforts exists. Though the needs of each department vary and the purposes for outreach may at times be disparate, there is full agreement that there is a need to improve coordinated, targeted, and timely communications and outreach solutions. The Communications Committee made a number of recommendations to the City Manager to improve citywide communications. Some of these recommendations included an update of the current City website, a coordinated internal computer hardware/software upgrade, a unified social media strategy, and enhanced attention to improved quality, responsiveness and branding of all City of Mill Valley communications. In order to enact these recommendations, the Committee suggested the need for additional staff/ personnel resources and the development of a comprehensive communications strategy. In January of this year, the City Council held a strategic planning retreat and endorsed the initiative to expand our focus and commitment to communication. The Council included implementing an improved comprehensive communication strategy as one of its Priority Projects, again highlighting its importance. In March 2014, the City Manager created a Communications Group to achieve the goals set by City Council and the Communications Committee by developing internal staff resources as well as contracting professional services. The Communications Group was created to further evaluate, recommend, design, and implement internal and external communications solutions, as well as the development of a Strategic Communications Plan. Strategic Communications Plan 1

2 ROLES & RESPONSIBILITIES THE COMMUNICATIONS GROUP IS COMPRISED OF: Community Engagement Supervisor This new position will facilitate City-wide activities involving the coordination and dissemination of information to the public and media using multiple outreach platforms. The position will facilitate improved internal operations and workflow by recommending and developing communications policy and overseeing City-wide hardware and software upgrades. The position will also enhance and expand public engagement strategies such as the strategic use of social media and multiple communication and outreach platforms and the development and implementation of a new City of Mill Valley website. Assistant to the City Manager This existing position will supervise the efforts of the Community Engagement Supervisor and the Communications Specialist and provide direction and oversight of the overall communications strategy. Communications Liaisons Current and future City staff identified, trained and equipped in each department to assist in communication and outreach and to develop individual department communications subplans. Communications Specialist This part-time contract service provider will implement elements of the City s communications strategy specifically in the area of developing well-written and compelling content, and then using traditional and social media to disseminate the information. Content will include information about upcoming activities, meetings, projects, potentially complex issues, and feature the good works and accomplishments of individual departments and the City as a whole. 2 Strategic Communications Plan

3 COMMUNITY MEMBERS & COMMUNICATION VEHICLES MILL VALLEY COMMUNITY MEMBERS In order to determine the most effective ways to communicate important information and develop key messages, the Communication Group has identified the audiences within the community. Primary Target Audience Residents of Mill Valley (homeowners and renters), Mill Valley Business Community (business owners and employees), City Employees, City Boards, Commissions and Committees, Property owners (residential and business), Families, Users of City services. Secondary Target Audience Mill Valley Schools, Mill Valley Community Organizations, Other Local Government Agencies, Media (print, radio, television, internet). Tertiary Target Audience Future/potential business owner, Future employees, Potential funders, Seniors, Tourists, Recreational users (mountain bikers, hikers), Artists, Food and spirits connoisseurs. Strategic Communications Plan 3

4 HOW THE CITY COMMUNICATES The Communications Group identified the following existing communication methods that the City currently employs or has the potential to use in the near future. City Website The main City Website pages, news and calendar items, plus: Webcasting, CRW Public Access Site (not yet launched), ecomment, Recreation Registration site s from City Staff Direct ing to individuals and groups (HOA list), City enotifications, marketing (Constant Contact) Local Print/Online Media Marin IJ, MV Patch, MV Herald. Patch: City of Mill Valley Blog, Library Blog & Library Events on Calendar Television and Cablecast Local news coverage (coverage of storms, spills, etc), Local Government Channel for City Council, Planning Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission meetings Video Local movie theater video, Online videos Print/Direct Mailing Activity Guide, postcards, flyers, public notices, letters, permits, maps, handouts, City budget, business license renewal notices, posters, signs, brochures. Public Meetings - Elected and appointed policy-making bodies, Neighborhood Association meetings, State of the City presentations, Annual Community Meeting Direct Public Contact - Over-the-counter interactions, Councilmember on the Plaza, Educational programs (Wetlands Days, field trips to City Hall), Special outreach events Social Media Facebook, Twitter, NextDoor, YouTube Signs Banners, electronic sign trailer, public notice posters, neighborhood flooding/fire signs Staff Reports and Minutes Emergency Communications TENS, alertmarin.org Governmental Offices Library, Community Center, City Hall, Wastewater Treatment Plant Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center Printed collateral, Friday Flash Local Schools Monthly newsletters, PTAs Community Organizations Neighborhood groups, PTO s, churches, civic organizations Community Events Memorial Day Parade, Fall Arts Festival, Dipsea Race, Mill Valley Film Festival Surveys/Focus Groups 4 Strategic Communications Plan

5 STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS PLAN GUIDING PRINCIPLES Guiding the planning and implementation of the Strategic Communications Plan is the City of Mill Valley and the City Council mission statements: Mission The mission of the City of Mill Valley is to provide a full range of municipal services to residents and businesses in accordance with the general plan and City Council policy and direction. City staff shall deliver those services in an efficient, effective and courteous manner with a commitment to operational excellence. The mission of the Mill Valley City Council is to serve faithfully the residents and businesses of Mill Valley and nurture the City s overall quality of life. The Council does this by setting policy for the City and direction for Mill Valley s City Manager and its Boards and Commissions, at all times guided by values core to Mill Valley s heritage. The principles of the Strategic Communications Plan are also derived from the overall vision identified by the City Council in their strategic planning process, and the Community Values identified in the MV2040 General Plan. City Council Core Values: A balanced, inclusive, and open approach to policy-making and city leadership. Resident participation that promotes open communication, mutual respect, and the development of community leaders. City Council Key Issues: Effective two way communication between City staff/council and the community. Excellence in customer service. MV2040 General Plan Community Values: Operational excellence by city officials and employees. Cultivating community participation, volunteerism, mutual respect, civil discourse and civic responsibility. Furthering excellence in public education and an open, effective and mutually supportive relationship among the community, public schools and the City. Strategic Communications Plan 5

6 STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS PLAN GOALS, OBJECTIVES, AND ACTIONS The goals of the Strategic Communications Plan are derived from the City of Mill Valley and City Council Mission Statements, by the City Council s Core Values and Key Issues, and the Community Values identified in the MV 2040 General Plan. Policies and programs will be developed and implemented stemming from the goals listed below. These goals, and their subsequent objectives and actions, will be revisited and revised over time to keep up-to-date and forward looking. SUMMARY: STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION PLAN GOALS: Goal 1. Customer Service Provide high quality customer service through responsive, professional and transparent interactions. Goal 2. Communication Consistency Communicate City news and information internally and externally in a timely, cohesive, and proactive manner, so that community members are well informed and able to access information pertaining to the City. Goal 3. Civic Engagement Cultivate community participation, volunteerism, mutual respect, civil discourse and civic responsibility by encouraging two-way communication and public involvement in City decisionmaking processes. Goal 4. Multiple Platforms Explore and utilize multiple communications platforms, including traditional and new media to expand and improve public outreach, transparency, information access and sharing with the public. Goal 5. Measurement and Evaluation Conduct ongoing measurement and evaluation of the Strategic Communications Plan. 6 Strategic Communications Plan

7 The following section expands upon each goal and lists the objectives and recommended actions to ensure that the Strategic Communications Plan goals can be implemented effectively. Strategic Communications Plan 7

8 GOAL 1. CUSTOMER SERVICE Provide high quality customer service through responsive, professional and transparent interactions. Objective 1: Reflect the City s mission and the City Council s Core Values and Key Issues in everyday business interactions. Action 1: Emphasize to current staff the City s mission and the City Council s Core Values and Key Issues. Action 2: Educate and train new employees to understand and apply the City s mission and the City Council s Core Values and Key Issues in everyday interactions. Action 3: Inform community members of the City s mission and the City Council s Core Values and Key Issues utilizing a variety of communication methods. Objective 2: Provide high quality customer service at all times. Action 1: The Communications Group will develop an internal City Communications Policy for outreach and public engagement outlining specifications for actions, response time to public inquiries, complaints and requests for information. Action 2: Research costs and approach alternatives associated with conducting a customer service satisfaction survey. Action 3: Conduct customer service survey which employs different approaches, vehicles or tools for different segments of population. Review the results and develop recommendations. 8 Strategic Communications Plan

9 GOAL 2. COMMUNICATION CONSISTENCY Communicate City news and information internally and externally in a timely, cohesive, and proactive manner, so that community members are well informed and able to access information pertaining to the City. Objective 1: Disseminate information to community members related to City activities, projects, events and initiatives in a cohesive manner. Action 1: The Communications Group will manage internal and external communications strategy for the City. Action 2: Ensure consistency and quality of the content and appearance for all City publications and communications. Action 3: Develop new guidelines, procedures and training on how to use City communication tools to consistently coordinate and maximize the distribution of information, including a Social Media policy. Action 4: Develop a style guide to assist with branding, design guidelines, content strategy, and general best practices of communications and outreach. Objective 3: Improve internal communication operations in order to improve public outreach and increase interdepartmental cooperation, effectiveness, and productivity. Action 1: Identify and train key staff as Communications Liaisons, who will work with the Communications Group to assist in City-wide communication and outreach efforts. Action 2: Communications Liaisons will act in each Department as a central point person to gather and prioritize City information for distribution. Action 3: Communications Liaisons will be trained to establish common standards and a baseline skill set for excellent community outreach. Action 4: Create shared calendars for events, programs, and services to increase interdepartmental awareness and communication. Objective 2: Disseminate information to community members related to City activities, projects, events and initiatives in a timely and proactive manner. Action 1: The Communications Group will be responsible for identifying and coordinating City information to be proactively and strategically communicated to the community. Action 2: At the beginning of each year, the Communications Group will assist Department Heads to identify 5-8 issues/programs on which they will require communication strategy assistance in the upcoming months. Action 3: Create an annual calendar of City outreach efforts to give the Communications Group a longrange overview of ongoing and special outreach efforts, to better allocate resources, and to create interdepartmental transparency and coordination. Strategic Communications Plan 9

10 GOAL 3. CIVIC ENGAGEMENT Cultivate community participation, volunteerism, mutual respect, civil discourse and civic responsibility by encouraging two-way communication and public involvement in City decision-making processes. Objective 1: Expand and improve two-way communication, civic engagement, public outreach, transparency, information access and sharing with the public. Action 1: Use traditional and new media, including social media (such as Twitter and Nextdoor) and mobile technologies to enhance and expand communications. Action 2: Coordinate a multimodal survey of community members and business owners in Mill Valley to assess the effectiveness of existing outreach efforts and solicit suggestions for additional or new information sharing and outreach approaches and tools. Action 3: Use small surveys (e.g. one question in an e-newsletter) to solicit input from the public on important topics and to continually assess and evaluate the Strategic Communications Plan. Objective 2: Identify opportunities to increase public awareness, participation and community engagement. Action 1: Continue and expand reach of Neighborhood Association meetings and State of the City presentations which relate information about government processes, City services, upcoming events and major projects, and offer an opportunity for direct feedback and comments from community members. Objective 3: Encourage resident involvement and knowledge of City government programs, services, and initiatives via print materials. Action 1: Revise all City public notices to satisfy all legal noticing requirements and also be well written, accessible, understandable and provide opportunities for input. Action 2: Develop a biannual printed newsletter to keep community members informed about City activities, projects, events and initiatives. Objective 4: Communicate accurate, factual, objective information about issues facing the City. Action 1: Enable all public employees to communicate with community members about policies, programs, services and initiatives they are familiar with and for which they have responsibility. Action 2: Communicate the expectation that employees shall provide information services in a non-partisan fashion consistent with the principles of a balanced, inclusive, and open approach to local governance. Action 2: Develop a feature called Previews and Reviews which will distill the upcoming City Council agenda into an easily consumed Preview summary, and producing a related Review summary based on Council actions. Action 3: After a one year pilot of Previews and Reviews, assess impact and, if successful, implement for additional City Boards, Commissions and Committees. 10 Strategic Communications Plan

11 GOAL 3. CIVIC ENGAGEMENT (CONTINUED) Cultivate community participation, volunteerism, mutual respect, civil discourse and civic responsibility by encouraging two-way communication and public involvement in City decision-making processes. Objective 5: Present compelling, engaging content that community members will find useful and interesting and will increase awareness and familiarity with the functions of our local government and the activities in the community. Action 1: Highlight and promote the City s good works, achievements, progress on projects, awards and accolades. Action 2: Highlight existing City services, interesting historical facts, and basic information about the functions of local government and how City services are performed and funded. Action 3: Identify and develop key publications from all departments to distribute at community events to consistently provide community members with important information from across the City organization. Action 4: Locate City literature displays in public places throughout the community to improve public access to basic City information and resources. Action 5: Select two community events annually to provide information and highlight City services in a coordinated manner. Strategic Communications Plan 11

12 GOAL 4. MULTIPLE PLATFORMS Explore and utilize multiple communications platforms, including traditional and new media to expand and improve public outreach, transparency, information access and sharing with the public. Objective 1: Identify and utilize different approaches and tools to reach different segments of the community. Action 1: Assess the current platforms and methods used by the City for their effectiveness for reaching different segments of the community. Action 2: Identify new platforms and partnerships (i.e. Mill Valley School District) and assess their potential effectiveness for reaching different segments of the community. Action 3: Develop policies (social media, website, ) for using platforms. Objective 3: Expand the City s multimedia presence in the form of videos as both stand alone and complementary resources. Action 1: Produce videos which educate community members about City services and programs, highlighting City events and activities. Action 2: Develop a City of Mill Valley YouTube channel for pertinent video messaging. Action 3: Explore and establish procedures for creating and disseminating videos related to emergency information and high profile issues. Objective 2: Develop a New City of Mill Valley Website Action 1: Assess the online needs of the public and each department. Action 2: Investigate the best options for a new website. Action 3: Update and redesign website optimized for mobile traffic and flexible enough to meet the needs of the City for the next decade. Action 4: Designate and train Communications Liaisons to update and maintain the website. Objective 4: Upgrade Citywide hardware/ software technology in a coordinated effort to maximize the efficiency of IT systems and inter-department workflow and to more efficiently conduct City business and provide information to the public. Action 1: Conduct needs assessment of all departments related to IT. Action 2: Coordinate hardware/software upgrades with Marin IT. Action 3: Develop ongoing employee training to establish common technology platforms, standards and a baseline skill set for improved efficiency and use of shared communications technology. 12 Strategic Communications Plan

13 GOAL 5. MEASURE AND EVALUATE Conduct ongoing measurement and evaluation of the Strategic Communications Plan. Objective 1: Engage in pre-activity measurement to assess existing attitudes, awareness, needs and preferences of target audiences and stakeholders. Action 1: Utilize the work of the Communications Committee which conducted a City-wide inventory of current communication and outreach methods and assessed their effectiveness. Action 2: Conduct Department Head interviews and receive feedback from Councilmembers to assess current communication practices, needs and strategies. Action 3: Develop an annual calendar of outreach efforts to assess improvement options. Action 4: Utilize the annual Community Meeting to conduct a Communications Survey to determine what information is important to the community, their preferred methods of getting information and communicating with the City, and suggestions for improvement. Objective 2: Engage in pre-activity information gathering to determine baseline data. Action 1: Gather data on website analytics (visitors, pageviews, length on page), marketing metrics (subscribers, open rate, click throughs), social media metrics (retweets, followers, mentions). Action 2: Gather data on uses of services, complaint tracking, inquiry tracking, event attendances, downloads, and other metrics to establish a baseline of data. Objective 3: Engage in post-activity measurement to assess attitudes, awareness, needs and preferences of target audiences and stakeholders. Action 1: Conduct follow-up Department Head interviews to assess communication efforts and strategies. Action 2: Utilize the Communications Committee to assess the effectiveness of the Communications Plan. Action 3: Utilize the annual Community Meeting to conduct a follow-up Communications Survey to determine what information is important to the community, their preferred methods of getting information and communicating with the City, and suggestions for improvement. Strategic Communications Plan 13

14 GOAL 5. MEASURE AND EVALUATE (CONTINUED) Conduct ongoing measurement and evaluation of the Strategic Communications Plan. Objective 4: Engage in post-activity information gathering to determine impact of Communications Plan. Action 1: Gather data on post-activity website analytics (visitors, pageviews, length on page), marketing metrics (subscribers, open rate, click throughs), social media metrics (retweets, followers, mentions). Action 2: Gather data on uses of services, complaint tracking, inquiry tracking, event attendances, downloads, and other metrics to establish a benchmark of data. Objective 5: Review data and make recommendations to modify and improve plan. Action 1: Collect information and feedback to determine the effectiveness of communications strategies. Action 2: Make course corrections based on these findings. Objective 6: Integrate ongoing public assessment into work practices of all departments. Action 1: Identify existing modes of daily, face-to-face public interaction that yield opportunities for gathering public input. Action 2: Integrate simple surveys into existing marketing and social media engagement. 14 Strategic Communications Plan

15 STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION PLAN OUTCOMES A number of tangible outcomes and indicators of progress will result from achieving the goals of the Strategic Communication Plan. GOAL Customer Service: Provide high quality customer service through responsive, professional and transparent interactions. OUTCOME Increased trust and support from the community as a result of positive interactions with City staff and effective communications. Communication Consistency: Communicate City news and information internally and externally in a timely, cohesive, and proactive manner, so that community members are well informed and able to access information pertaining to the City. Increased community understanding and knowledge of important issues, as well as the basic functions of local government and how City services are performed and funded. Civic Engagement: Cultivate community participation, volunteerism, mutual respect, civil discourse and civic responsibility by encouraging two-way communication and public involvement in City decision-making processes. Increased community member involvement in City decision-making processes, as well as city programs, services, committees and commissions. Multiple Platforms: Explore and utilize multiple communications platforms, including traditional and new media to expand and improve public outreach, transparency, information access and sharing with the public. City communications will reach and engage a wide range of community members through multiple outreach methods. Measurement and Evaluation: Conduct ongoing measurement and evaluation of the Strategic Communications Plan with the intention of modifying the plan as needed in response to feedback and ongoing assessment. City officials will gain a stronger, evolving understanding of the needs of the community and will use data to determine and utilize the best and most effective communications efforts. Strategic Communications Plan 15

16 CONCLUSION The City Council and staff value communication and recognize the need to provide timely information that is transparent, cohesive, accessible, and cost efficient. While we have devoted much energy to develop and manage our current tools and practices, we recognize that a much more robust and comprehensive managed communication effort is necessary. This Strategic Communications Plan clearly lays out the Guiding Principles, Goals, Objectives, and Actions for the City to make a critical shift in communications strategy towards a more coordinated and comprehensive approach. A strategic approach to the City s communications will ensure we are reaching more people, engaging more stakeholders and operating in a more open and transparent manner, and will lay the groundwork for excellence in communications for many years to come. Next steps in the process include policy and program development, implementation and training, assessment and evaluation, and ongoing updates and revisions to the plan to achieve our stated outcomes. 16 Strategic Communications Plan

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