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Breakout Sessions
Additional Sessions Coming Soon!

Bridging the Communication Gap - Crafting Messages that Cross Cultural, Generational, and Political Boundaries
Chances are, you live and work in a fairly diverse community. Of course, diversity comes in many forms, be it people of different ages, ethnicities, income brackets, education levels, political beliefs, etc. As public communicators, it is our job to be able to craft messages that reach across all of these boundaries and speak to our communities as a whole. Sometimes, however, we are tasked with constructing a message around one particular group or issue. How do we balance these needs? Perhaps your economic development team needs help attracting new millennial-oriented businesses to your town? Maybe local law enforcement wants to find a way to foster relationships with minority groups in the community? What if discussion about a tight budget has devolved from discourse into diatribe? Is there internal confusion about what the organization’s brand really represents? Each of these questions can only be answered by communications professionals who are equipped and understand how to stand back and look at each problem through an array of lenses as diverse as the communities and organizations they serve. In this session, participants will take a quick dip in the pool of communication theories to break down how effective messages are constructed and why people respond to them the way they do. A fresh look will be taken at exactly how communication is defined and what it’s supposed to accomplish. Then, practical tactics will be explored for how to identify, communicate to, and connect with diverse audience segments and interest groups inside and outside of our own communities. Lastly, approaches for continually monitoring and responding to the ever-shifting media and communications landscape will be explored. Spoiler alert: In the time it’s taken to read this description, the best approaches for bridging the communication boundaries in your own community have already changed.

Could You Please Fill That Out Online?
It's so much easier (and less expensive) to track service delivery and to communicate online, right? But what about those residents who can't afford the internet or a computer? And what can you do when many of your own government employees live on the other side of the digital divide? Kansas City, Missouri's Communications Director is also a Digital Inclusion Fellow with NTEN, the Nonprofit Technology Network. He'll share ideas and invite you to analyze his project in progress, with the goal of creating best practices for all local governments.

Creative Resident Engagement - This ain't no town hall meeting...
Some people say the town hall meeting is dead, that people just don't have the time or interest to attend meetings. So how do we help residents learn about projects and get their feedback and opinions? This session provides four concrete examples of online and face-to-face community engagement events that worked well in Kansas City, and tips for staging these events in your city. Please come with your own success stories to share during an idea exchange.

Don't Leave Your Employees Behind
As communications pros, we are asked to engage community members and seek news media coverage. But very often, our side job is sending messages to employees. Don’t let this fall off your list of priorities! Employees are already connected and can be ambassadors for your agency and community in an age of deep distrust of government organizations. Recruitment and retention can be a challenge in the government sector because we often struggle to help people understand how our service makes their life better. Make sure you are creating two way communications with the people matter most – the ones who work with you every day. Take home tips to create strong, engaging employee communications, regardless of your organization's size or resources.

Fearless Flying with the Media
After this session, you will no longer dread calls from the media. Three experienced communications professionals will lead the session, several of whom have previously worked in the media and one of whom currently serves as an elected official. The session will include an interactive mock press conference to learn hands-on how to organize, oversee and coach others through this type of media interaction. Attendees will learn tools, tips and talking points for staying in control when the media calls and how to put a positive slant on even the most difficult situations.

Hacks for Internal Stakeholder Engagement
How can you build the best internal culture for engagement? How do you helps to transform employees into brand ambassadors for your city or county? This session focuses on the strategies and tools of participation marketing to help you build engagement, excitement, and energy around your organization's strategic initiatives and core messages.

Having Fun With Serious Topics: Pipes, Ports n’ Poop
The session covers how to raise awareness, build brand identity and change behaviors with public education campaigns and community outreach efforts using creative marketing strategies. With so many messages and various platforms in which to gain audience awareness, serious topics have to fight for attention.

Using creative messaging campaigns and interesting visual elements appeals to demographics that typically do not consider "serious" messages. Wastewater treatment work, environmental concerns, public transportation, seaport operations and investment in public infrastructure aren't hot-topics around the water cooler. We'll discuss what to do before, during and after construction as well as effective communication channels, the importance of cohesive messaging, engaging materials and a few (many?) poop jokes.

Herding Cats - How to Rebrand a County
In June 2017, Delaware County in Ohio rolled out its new brand identity. Arguably it had never defined its brand identity, so this was a monumental undertaking over the course of eight months for both the County and Guide Studio, the Cleveland-based design firm selected for the project. Because county governments are so decentralized in structure, a project like this presented many unique challenges. Delaware County, a rapidly growing Central Ohio county with 204,500 residents, is governed by 15 autonomous elected officials—who did not have to participate if they didn’t want to. In this session, we share our hard-won insights on how to define a county brand, how to get buy-in across the organization, and how to implement the new brand successfully—with a one-person communications shop, no less! Phase 1 – “Anything is better than what we have now”: the history of the county’s existing brand and why we decided to rebrand; Phase 2 – “Getting organized”: lobbying people throughout the county organization, easing concerns and getting buy-in; Phase 3 – “Issuing an RFP”: this included explaining what the term “public record” means to design firms that had never submitted a proposal to a civic organization; Phase 4 – “The Project”: how we did what we did and what the design results were; Phase 5 – “Roll-Out”: how we launched the new branding materials; Phase 6 – “After Action Review”: what we did well and what we would have done differently.

Hosting Engaging Events
No community loves events the way the City of Santa Clarita does. We do ribbon cuttings for new signs, groundbreakings for bridge expansions and celebrations like you would not believe. In 2017, we hosted 12 concerts, 15 festivals, one parade, three major press conferences, a marathon, an internationally televised bike race, a dozen employee events, holiday parties, dozens of groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings, one former council member's funeral and a vigil for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting, which drew more than 3,000 people and all major Los Angeles news stations. Santa Clarita Communications Manager, Carrie Lujan will take attendees through the event planning process, share how to pull off a flawless event, explain how events can be used to grow community engagement, provide tips for working with local and regional media and how to best handle council members and elected officials. 

How to Brew Up Your Best Brand
In this entertaining session you will learn how to brew up the best brand for your community. Panelist will discuss the right mix of research ingredients, how your brand brew can be distinct form all others, ways to keep your elected from boiling over and the recipe for making sure your brand has the legs to be an asset well into maturation.

Insert Crisis…Now What?!?! : Navigating a Crisis
No matter the crisis, effective government communication is more important than ever. From plane crashes to hurricanes, government is often the primary source of information the public relies on for critical safety and security details. Whether you are a team of one or many, this workshop will provide actionable insight on how to protect your brand. Join this panel/breakout session to rethink traditional crisis communication strategies and learn:
  • real world experience and lessons learned from a number of crises from California, Florida and South Carolina public relations professionals,
  • pre/during/post-event crisis operations and the importance of proper preparation of an emergency communications plan,
  • how local governments, police departments and fire departments, who often work independent of one another, can achieve outstanding results by breaking down silos and working together in a crisis communications environment, and
  • strategies to prepare, protect, and promote your organization and brand in a climate of crisis.

Metrics Matter: Guiding Your Social Media Strategy Through Measurement
Learn how to focus your social media measurements to what matters most in this interactive workshop designed to give you the tools to prove your social media is impactful. Matching metrics to your agency’s overall communication goals is paramount. This workshop will provide you with a solid “how to” method to match your agencies overall social media strategy with metrics – and take your strategy to the next level. After all, metrics do matter. (This interactive session will be designed to provide attendees with "how-to" logistics for working with Facebook Insights and Twitter analytics. The goal is for attendees to walk away with a deeper understand of how creating reports is done and the fact that there is no need to hire a third party for analytics - they can do it themselves.)

Pitch Perfect: How To Help Local Media Sing Your Praises
Gone are the days of faxing press releases… or sending press releases at all. Reporters, bloggers, and the public are changing how they find stories and information about your city. Learn how to format your pitches, the best ways share story ideas, and what to have ready to keep local media happy and returning to you for positive press. Two former TV journalists share their tips for a successful working relationship with the media. This presentation will be interactive, and questions and conversations are encouraged.

Pop Up City Hall
Community engagement has always been a priority for our Mayor and City Council, but the traditional ways of community outreach (town halls, government meetings, etc) was not working. So we decided we were going to bring "city government" to where people were. Both physically and electronically. Over 6 weeks we physically brought City Hall to 10 events in Grand Forks and had 300 residents take a survey that answered questions ranging from "Have you been to a government meeting?" to "What would be the best way to pay for road repairs?". While we were running the physical Pop Up City Hall events we were also running an online campaign that asked the same questions and provided the same information. 603 took our online surveys. Our Pop Up City Halls were a great success and are now a regular part of our community outreach plans.

Saving Public Officials from Themselves on Social Media
Public official use of social media is gaining attention. But when it comes to blocking users, deleting comments, and going viral -- the attention isn’t always good for you and your agency! The challenge is: How can you convince public officials to follow the same best practices and policies you’ve put in place? This session will explore these prominent challenges and demonstrate how communicators can best prepare (and protect) their agencies. To help illustrate, Amy Blalock from the City of Durham will share how her team developed a social media policy for elected officials, and then managed to win approval from City Council. Additionally, Anil Chawla, CEO of ArchiveSocial, will share case studies involving public officials and shed light on how your agency can stay out of the headlines. The session will leave you with lessons learned and tactics that can be applied to better equip your agency for the increasingly wide adoption of social media by public officials. Audience participation in the discussion will be highly encouraged!

Story Mapping -- Telling your municipal story in a snappy way!
We’re telling the City of Battle Creek story in a fun, interactive way. Especially with downsizing and competition in the traditional media, it's more important than ever for municipalities to tell their own stories. While many reports we produce must be the standard pages of text, there are creative ways to present other reports and information. A story map is one of those that allow us to tell your story in a fun, visual, and memorable way. Using the ESRI software suite we already use to create various maps, the story map format shares highlights from across our organization using text, but also maps, images, video, and click-on interactions. Learn how we did it, along with some lessons learned that may help you tell your own story.

This Is Us: Transforming Government Communications Through Storytelling
The changing media landscape has communication departments focused on becoming their own newsroom and many government communicators are back to their former careers: being reporters. However it’s not just about reporting your organization’s news to your residents; it’s also about telling your story. Compelling and powerful stories can be found everywhere in your organization and can be told through everything from newsletters and annual reports to social media posts and videos. Creative storytelling can connect with your residents on an emotional level and break through where traditional communications sometime struggle. What are the most important stories for your city to tell and what is the best way to craft those stories? What can transform a story from the mundane to the memorable? We’ll help you find the stories; discover how to tell them and how to leverage good stories to boost your organization’s profile.

Using Video in Social Media for Community Engagement
Online video is the future of public information and communications. New data tells us that video content on the web accounts for nearly three-quarters of traffic and reach. Leading marketing experts place video content in 2018 at 80 percent of all internet content. As traditional sources of news are shifting, direct social media communications channels are increasingly important. As part of this shift, video content cannot be underestimated as a way to reach community members. During the past few years, the City of West Hollywood has had success with a variety of approaches in using video to connect to important community concerns and communicate about key policy priorities. Audiovisual storytelling, public service announcements, series webisodes, digital animations, short-form mini documentaries, and online ‘NewsBytes’ have all taken an increasingly prominent role in the City of West Hollywood’s outreach mix. Video content is also an extra reinforcement for media relations and civic participation. This breakout session will provide participants with information about the City of West Hollywood’s sometimes lighthearted (drag queens and flash mobs) and other times serious (homelessness and HIV/AIDS) approaches to producing and deploying video content. The session will offer real-life examples of methods and best practices to creating video, leveraging social media following, and, ultimately, capturing the attention of community members.

What's Your Story? Who Helps You Tell It?
As communicators, our first thought is our external audience, our partners, stakeholders, and constituents. Our first audience really is our employees because they are also our key messengers. We need to ensure we are not just informing employees but including them in the message, connecting the big picture, vision, and mission to their daily work, and allowing them to help create the narrative where possible. How can we do this? Why should we do this? - Collaboration, connections, pride, and engagement. 

Website Redesign, Readability & Accessibility - Lessons from the Trenches
Government agencies serve at the will of the people, but government websites sometimes have a hard time keeping up with modern expectations - and industry standards. This two-fold presentation will cover what you need to know (and communicate) before, during and after a website redesign. The County of San Luis Obispo’s Communications Analyst Whitney Szentesi will cover redesigning websites for government and how you can keep citizens and employees engaged in the process. Then, Anthem, Arizona's Communications & Public Affairs Director Kristi Northcutt will demonstrate how her team re-vamped their city’s website using W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, known as WCAG 2.0. Take home tips and tricks on a budget that will bring your city's website into readability and accessibility compliance - whether during a redesign or as it applies to your current site.

Yes, I Do More than Facebook: Communication Reporting To Your Organization
It's easy to look at crime rates to determine how the police department is doing or look at a balanced budget and see that the Finance Department has done their job. So, how do we as communicators measure success and share it with leadership? We will show real examples and strategies of using data to drive your communications strategies and will share tips to assembling meaningful communications report for your organization. 


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