2019 Breakout Sessions

Authentic Engagement in the Fake News Era

With the level of distrust in government near historic lows, how do you engage your citizens? How do you build trust through communication? Learn strategies to rebuild trust through sharing information and opening channels to listen to your community. Review best practices for using various channels, through social and digital media, print materials, and using the local press. With so many sources for news, ensure that your information is received and trusted. Takeaway tips and strategies that you can immediately implement when you get back to your office!

Presenter: Coralee Holm - Director, Community Engagement & Innovation - City of South Burlington, Vermont

Back In Charge: Strategies to Reclaim Time (and Peace) from Social Media Management

As time spent on social platforms continues to climb among social media users, demands placed on communicators to engage these audiences are increasing as well. However, effective social media management rests on a simple, yet elusive, strategy – setting boundaries. Learn why, and how, taking a more strategic approach on your social channels enriches both your communication efforts and your life.

Presenter: Ashley E. English, Ph.D. - Texas Christian University

Beyond Transparency: Creating a Culture of Engagement

Does your community want to move beyond transparency and provide a more comprehensive approach to citizen engagement? If so, attend this session to hear about the steps one municipality has taken to implement a culture of engagement in their growing community. Town of Parker and P3 (Parker's Urban Renewal Authority) staff will share a case study on a recent development project in Parker, My Mainstreet, and the positive impact that in-depth community engagement had on the project outcome. We will walk participants through a comparison of a project similar to My Mainstreet, which did not include a community engagement component, and how the results of the two projects differed drastically. Participants will gain insight into:

  • Designing a community engagement program that works for your municipality
  • Building a culture of community engagement within your organization
  • Gaining buy-in from all levels (staff, management, elected officials and the community)
  • Selecting the right projects for community engagement
  • Defining and meeting community expectations
  • Soliciting community participation and engagement through creative and consistent marketing
  • The importance of sharing the results of community engagement initiatives

Presenters: Weldy Feazell - Redevelopment Manager and Elise Penington - Communications Director - Town of Parker, Colorado

Broadening Citizen Engagement or Reaching Under Engaged Audiences

In a system where government derives its powers from the consent of the governed, it is essential to have good, two-way communication between public officials and the constituents that they serve. In this session, representatives that interact with the public on a daily basis can learn best practices on how local governments can adapt to population change in their communities by developing intentional and comprehensive programs that engage hard to engage or historically underrepresented communities such as youth, immigrants, limited English-proficient and other cultural groups and communities of color. Participants will learn how to identify barriers to public participation, develop comprehensive engagement plans, and learn best practice models from successful case studies around the nation.

Presenter: Nicole Hendrickson - Community Outreach - Gwinnett County, Georgia

Building Trust through Strategy and Performance Communications

Your organization's strategic planning and performance management processes provide communications professionals with rich narratives with which to build credibility, demonstrate responsiveness, and practice transparency. If you want to improve the trust that the community has in your organization or the trust between staff and your elected body, there is no better way than setting achievable outcomes and delivering on them. The challenge is that very few people know about the good work your jurisdiction is doing every day—they only hear about the dysfunction and mistakes. We'll discuss how to leverage the hidden stories all around you to improve resident satisfaction and trust, how to use your organization's strategic goals to drive key messages, and ways to build a shared community vision.

Presenters: Kevin Knutson - Vice President of Customer Success - Envisio and TBD

Can They Really Say That? Local Government and the First Amendment

This presentation examines current approaches to First Amendment issues facing local government and elected officials. It explores municipal policies and the latest tactics of groups seeking to test weaknesses in those policies, recent federal court cases and best practices for protecting the rights of individuals as well as the organization.

Presenters: Rachel Allen - Client Group Manager; Lori MacKenzie - Manager of Integrated Communications and Marketing and Kim Skaggs - Assistant City Attorney - City of Aurora, Colorado

Community Engagement for Strategic Success: Using Community Input to Make Better Decisions

Successful local governments recognize the value of regularly engaging their residents to understand where the community shines and where work is needed. Changes in demographics, political cultures, and community needs are always evolving and impacting demands on service delivery. So keeping the strategic direction moving forward means that engagement must be regular, consistent, representative and effective.

This session will show leaders how to leverage community input to measure performance and establish an ongoing engagement initiative. You'll learn where to find strategic strengths and weaknesses, as well as the reasons for community shifts and who is most impacted in your city's neighborhoods. Presenters will reveal communication strategies for engaging your community at a much deeper level. Join us and your local government peers to discuss steps to creating ongoing and convenient online conversations with residents, and to give decision-makers the data they need to move the community forward confidently.

Presenters: Matt Fulton - National Engagement Director - POLCO and Angelica Wedell - Marketing Director - National Research Center

Crafting Website Content that Works for ALL Residents

How do you look at the user experience not just as a myriad of touch points but as a holistic approach to delivering better customer service in a consistent way? The City of Lakewood and City of Centennial will talk about how they're taking steps to re-create their content during a website redesign in a way that ensures they engage, inform and serve residents. They'll discuss their approach to building a new site so that it's updated, mobile friendly and able to meet residents of all ages and abilities where they are. Internally, they're also helping website contributors be better prepared to develop and publish content in a more streamlined and consistent way so that, moving forward, the website can remain a backbone for information that is always reliable, approachable and helpful.

Presenters: Kit Lammers - Communications Manager - City of Lakewood, CO and Kelly Ohaver - Customer Experience Manager - City of Centennial , Colorado

Creative Branding for Community Engagement

What's in a name? Can a "brand" help improve community engagement in your city? Join this discussion about creative ways to try to get residents to be more involved in city decision-making.

Presenter: Beth Breitenstein - Public Information Officer and Chris Hernandez - Communications Director - City of Kansas City, Missouri

Developing a Social Media Plan That Gets Results

The City of Boulder, Colorado developed a social media plan that sets clear, practical guidelines for how the city will use social media and measure success. Hear lessons learned about why and how to develop a social media plan, including insights about topics to cover, like goals, posting guidelines and content strategy. See a replicable social media plan that strives to reflect best practices and data-driven strategies to engage audiences and advance communication priorities.

Presenter: Bryan Bullock - Communication Manager – Digital Content - City of Boulder, Colorado

Do Less with More! How Small Communications Teams Can Let Go of Control Without Sacrificing Their City or County's Reputation

What if you could be relieved of some of the pressure from your never-ending to-do list, AND increase the general public's trust in your beloved entity by letting go of control? The only solution is to increase staff and resources, right? Maybe not… Like so many other local government communicators, our small team in Larimer County, Colorado, was struggling to balance the increasing public pressure for immediate digital communication with the constraints of our work-load capacity.

So we took a risk. We decided to let go of our complete control over the County website. Since granting website editing privileges to 60+ non-communications, county employees, Larimer.org has won numerous state and national awards; including the 2018 3CMA Savvy Award for the Best Overall Website and both the Pinnacle Award and the Members Choice award from the National Association of Government Web Professionals

In this session, small or one-person shops and decentralized organizations can learn some tips and tricks on how to increase output while maintaining quality communication, and discuss the lessons learned by the Larimer County team when they decided to embrace a "let it go" strategy.

Presenters: Michelle Bird - Public Relations Manager and Gregg Turnbull - Webmaster - Larimer County, Colorado

Driving Employee Engagement

Writer. Photographer. Producer of viral videos. Communication professionals need to be handy with a growing assortment of tools and tricks to make our messages stand out. Hear how a team at the City of Boulder, Colorado figured out the secret to raising the department's employee engagement scores by teaching, learning and laughing together – all for the price of a couple of pizzas.

Presenters: Erika Parker - Internal Communications and Annie Zaruba - Communications Specialist - City of Boulder, Colorado

Everything You Need to Know for the 2020 Census

As communicators, you play a key role in ensuring your community is accurately counted in the 2020 Census. The outcome influences how $675 billion in federal funds are spent across the country annually and it determines Congressional representation and much more. This session, led by a Census representative, will focus in on how the 2020 census is different than ever before, with an online response option, innovations in technology and the broad use of social media. This session will help you prepare to have a leadership role in your community in this once a decade critical count.

Presenters: Lily Griego - U.S. Census Bureau and Jasmine Pridgen - U.S. Census Bureau

Facebook Insights, Advertising, and Advanced Techniques

Whether you're fully invested in using social media to engage residents or just starting out, you need to be able to show the value of the investment of your time and advertising money. Facebook Insights offers a wealth of data for your organization. Analysis can drive your content communication and social media advertising strategy. Through the use of third-party tools, you can help keep your Facebook communication up to date. Using live demonstration, attendees will feel like experts after this in-depth training.

Presenter: Josh Hirsch - Director of Mission and Communication - Susan G. Komen Florida

Fake News - It's Real! Mopping Up a Fake News Story that Goes Viral

It was Memorial Day weekend and the 90-year-old widow of a military veteran was being forced out of her home by the City of Sarasota for failing to address code compliance issues. That's the story that appeared on social media and subsequently print and TV news. Around the world, people were outraged that the City of Sarasota could be so cruel, so callous. But, the story was NOT true. And, yet, the fake story went viral and the City's one-person Communications office was left to mop it up. Ultimately, reporters apologized, the true facts were reported, and a neighboring city administrator complimented the City of Sarasota on how quickly the story turned around. Learn how the City recovered and restored its reputation through the use of strong, consistent messaging on social media.

Presenter: Jan Thornburg - Senior Communications Manager- City of Sarasota, Florida

Felix's Bag of Tricks for Public Information Professionals

Seventy-five minutes of fast flowing and mostly free apps to make your life as a PIO easier while upping your game. There are apps for everything, from communication, collaboration, graphics, videos, audio, design, meetings and meeting planning to organization, outsourcing, presentations, productivity, social media tricks, writing tools and so much more. And, if you're really special, maybe even a few groovy personal apps to make your every day life easier too. We will have fun, and you will leave with dozens of new tricks you will be dying to take home with


Presenter: Sonja Wassgren Morgan - Public Information Officer - South Coast Water District, California

Get Street Smart about Communications

Talking about streets is about as saucy as it comes, right? Um...wrong. But when there is a powerhouse partnership between your Communications Department and Street Department, getting word out about projects can be as smooth as freshly poured asphalt.

Presenters: Ron Coleman - Public Information Officer - Maricopa County, Arizona Department of Transportation and Kristi Northcutt - Director of Communications & Public Affairs - Anthem Community Council, Arizona

I Just Downloaded It From The Internet, Which is to Say, I May Have Stolen It...

Understand the essentials of copyright law, what is and is not protected, and how easy it is to infringe on that protection. Learn about the fair use doctrine as it relates to government communications. Collects tips and strategies for building a digital assets library to keep your print and social media communique free of infringement.

Presenter: Robyn Lingen - Creative Director - Designwrite Studios

Making the Most of your Social Media Presence

You spend hours crafting clever verbiage, searching for emojis that enhance the message and finding that ideal image or perfect video to accompany your post. You hit publish and wait. Some posts are rewarded with rapid-fire double taps, likes, shares and comments. While other posts somehow go unnoticed, lost in your followers' feeds. The City of Santa Clarita will lead an interactive discussion sharing which posts are the biggest hits, how to grow engagement, how to make the most out of your analytics and tips to gain followers. Plus, find out how Santa Clarita was able to grow their Facebook audience by more than 500 followers in just one day. Come prepared to share your top performing posts and which ones were surprisingly duds. 

Presenters: Carrie Lujan - Communications Manager and Garrett Wedel - Program Specialist - City of Santa Clarita, California

Practical Marketing Tips for Practically Insane Ideas

Pack programs, increase revenues, expand engagement and sell out events! Take your marketing efforts to new heights with practical marketing advice and practically insane case studies. This interactive workshop pairs strategies from the fields of business, psychology and behavioral economics with outrageous case studies from highly successful municipal campaigns. Participants will leave with a better understanding of human behavior, highly effective tools and tactics, a fresh mentality about government communication, and new ideas to implement in their own communities.

Presenters: Ryan Hegreness - Operations Manager and Rich Neumann - Marketing Supervisor - City of Westminster, Colorado

Savvy Film Festival

Critics agree: This year's Savvy Film Festival is the best yet. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll want more of these award-winning films created by communities around the country.

Presenter: Brian Ligon - Communications & Marketing Director - City of Mont Belvieu, Texas

The Nature of Your Place: How Your City's Natural Assets Can Inspire Your City Brand

Quality of place is the new currency for competitive communities – and their brands must convey it. Increasingly, the answer to enhancing a city's quality of place and the quality of its brand, is in its natural assets. Waterways, trail systems and even the productivity of the land speak to a community's unique character and serve as major attractions for talent, tourism and economic development.

Participants will learn how to look for the natural gems in their communities, further develop them and better showcase them. Distinct cases studies – Bakersfield, California, Johnson City, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Florida and others – demonstrate how cities have leveraged natural assets for a higher quality of life, economic development and more compelling community marketing. Participants will take away: how to apply innovation to existing natural assets, what grants and funding for the improvement of natural assets exist, and how to translate their unique natural assets into distinctive, creative branding.

Presenters: Keisha Shoun - Director, Communications & Marketing and JT McSpadden - Digital Communications Manager - City of Johnson City, Tennessee

Think like a TV Producer

According to data, 80% of people would rather watch video than read a blog. Live video is a great way to connect to community and build trust. Learn from a television news veteran of 20 years about the power of live video and how to think like a television news producer to create an experience and content.

Presenter: Roshanda Pratt - The Rosho Live

What Leaders Can Learn From Hurricanes: Crisis Communication and Messages of Resilience

Hurricane Harvey not only battered the Texas coast in 2017, but it also dumped several feet of rain across the Houston area. One school district in Fort Bend County, Texas, used a discourse of resilience before, during, and after the storm to position its community for renewal. From this year-long case study, find out how public sector leaders can model resilience discourse and "round up" crisis communication into more than warnings and announcements.

Presenter: Jacqueline Lambiase, Ph.D. - Texas Christian University

What Prepares You For This? Lessons from the Virginia Beach Workplace Shooting

He submitted his two-week notice and worked the rest of the day. Then, just before 4 p.m., the employee became a shooter who killed 11 coworkers and a contractor visiting the building and critically injured four others. This case study will explore, from an insider's perspective, the communication challenges and lessons learned in dealing with a deadly workplace shooting.

Presenter: Julie Hill - Communications Director - City of Virginia Beach, Virginia