2021 Breakout Sessions

All About Cleo

Our office had a problem: the public would sometimes struggle getting help from our website. So we developed a virtual assistant with IBM Watson technology and named her Cleo. With Cleo's help, people can get answers from the Clerk's Office on their computer, on their cell phone, and even on smart devices. In this session, we will discuss who Cleo is, why we developed Cleo, and how we designed and deployed a social media campaign to help the public learn more about Cleo.

This presentation will include our communications rationale to develop Cleo, our marketing plan to teach the public about Cleo, and some statistics on both our community outreach from our social media plan and the growth of Cleo's use as a communications tool.

Cleo is a virtual assistant with a strong technical background and a savvy marketing campaign that teaches the world that she is more than just another chat bot.

Presenters: Tiarra Earls Haas - Communications Officer and Brian Turner - Media Officer - Clerk of the Superior Court, Maricopa County, AZ

Creating Video and Gif Animations

Animation is a great tool to attract eyes to your posts. Research shows that social media posts with graphics get more views, and posts with animations get more interactions than posts with static pictures. Animation it is relatable for the public, it is easy for the public to get information from animation, and it can take your marketing to new places that budgets or other limitations simply won't allow. My presentation on animation that will cover the following topics:

  • The ‘whys’ behind why city and county communications professionals should be using animation to capture public attention and to educate the public about services.
  • Several case studies where government agencies have used animation to the benefit of their organizations. A variety of agencies and situations will be covered.
  • How-to:  When to use animation, the difference between a gif and a video animation, basic production concepts to keep in mind, plus a demo of resources that beginners can use to create their first animations for their organizations.

Presenter: Brian Turner - Media Officer - Clerk of the Superior Court, Maricopa County, AZ

Creative Crash Course: Small but Mighty Ideas for Social Success

How do you write authentic, educational and timely content that captures a new audience and keeps your existing audience engaged year after year? Whether you’re a newly assigned writer or veteran content creator, it’s always helpful to consider different ways to spin topics and fill your annual social media content calendar. If your role supports social media curation and maintenance for recreation, a public utility, the police department or general city/county governance, you’ll walk away from this session with 52 small but mighty topic ideas. More importantly, you’ll learn how to ignite creativity and drive your pages to social success. 

Presenter: Kim Overholt - Communications Manager - Town of Windsor, CO

Do it for the Gram: Optimizing your Spaces & Events for Social Sharing

Social media is built around one simple fact: people love to share and show off. With a little extra effort, you can make sure your city is picture-perfect, encouraging your residents and visitors to not just show off the fun they’re having, but help you promote the programs, events and facilities your team works so hard to create. It’s a little bit of free advertising, plus a whole lot of fun!

Learning Objectives: Participants will understand why encouraging user generated content is important and effective for growing a following and improving relationships with the community. Participants will get specific examples of ways to optimize facilities, events and programs to increase social interaction with guests. Participants will learn basic phone photography techniques to help them understand what makes a great photo opportunity in order to create those moments for guests

Presenter: Ann Beck - Marketing and Communications Manager - City of Mansfield, TX, Parks & Recreation

Does Your City Have What it takes to be One of a Kind?

What does it take be a one-of-a-kind city? Could your city even pull off such a claim? The truth is, all cities have the capability to be one-of-a-kind, but they may not always have the ability to identify what makes them truly memorable and unique. Perhaps, even more challenging is whether city leaders have the courage to do it. Steve will show you what it takes for a city to become one-of-a-kind and how it can tell its unique brand story. More importantly, he will show you how to achieve buy-in, then live it, breathe it and sustain it as your city grows.  

Presenter: Steve Chandler - Owner & Brand Strategist - ChandlerThinks

Exposing Employees.... in a Good Way!

Are you sick of people always complaining about lazy government workers? Us too! Swing by this session to pick up a couple pointers on how to expose the good work your employees are doing day in and day out in your community. See the simple, no-cost ideas that are opening up one local government to its community and, in turn, bolstering trust and pride as the community moves forward.

Presenter: Julie Breithaupt - Communications Manager - City of Shawnee, KS

Find Your Outside Voice: Crafting Plain-Talk Communications that Make People Pay Attention

You have an important message. You spend time writing, editing, and hashtagging your content with strategy and precision. You publish your content, and... *crickets*. The City of Ferndale, Michigan, struggled with this: little to no engagement despite tons of effort, made even worse by the constant engagement happening between residents and business owners elsewhere, such as Facebook groups and Nextdoor. Their problem? They were communicating like government professionals--not like real people. Ferndale's two-woman communications team--a professional writer with an external communications background, and a marcomm writer with digital and visual expertise--has been able to largely overcome this challenge by adopting a plain-language, "outside voice" approach to communications. In this session, they'll share:

  • The social media strategy that improved engagement by up to 600%
  • The tools they use for applying plain-language filters to written content, improving comprehension and retention
  • The methods they use with other departments to reduce "governmenty" language and increase engagement

Presenter: Kara Sokol - Director of Communications - City of Ferndale, MI and Lindsay Gunsorek - Communications Specialist - City of Ferndale, MI

Gen Z, Millennials, Baby Boomers, Oh My! Tips for Communicating with Every Generation

Fewer than 1 in 3 Generation Z adults agree that they can communicate with local government easily. As the 67 million strong Gen Z enters adulthood, understanding their unique communication preferences is critical for effective communication and engagement with every member of your community. This session will cover how you can meet communication preferences of Gen Z and beyond.

Presenter: Tom Spengler - Chief Executive Officer - Rock Solid Technology and Andrew Kirk - Director of Sales, North America - Rock Solid Technology

How to go Viral by Creating Conversations on Twitter

What exactly does it take to go viral on Twitter? This session has all the secrets! Come join a deep dive on top conversation tactics on Twitter to help boost your presence and followers online. We'll also do a hands-on, deep dive into some of Twitter's newest features, including Twitter Spaces. Whether you're a social media pro or novice, this session is for you! 

Presenter: Morgan Butler - Engagement and Outreach Manager for Public Policy - Twitter 

How to Project Openness in a Time of Inherent Distrust

These days, it seems trust in local government is at an all time low during the season of the Coronavirus pandemic.  There have been countless times when residents/ constituents/ citizens have used social media to attack those in local government for a variety of reasons, and not necessarily share all of the information in their complaints.  In this concurrent session, we will define and discuss openness and learn various strategies on how it can be projected in your local areas.

Presenter: LaTonya Pegues - The Unconscious Bias Trainer

Increasing Engagement, Increasing Equity

Bridging the gap between government and underserved communities may seem daunting. Multiple potential points exist that can increase conflict and miscommunication, leading to failure in engagement. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Systemic societal inequities won’t dissolve overnight, but an omni-channel digital communications strategy can perform a lot of the heavy lifting.  

Presenters: Ruthnie Angrand - Communications/Marketing Director - City of Syracuse, NY, Chris Hernandez - Communications Director - City of Kansas City, MO and Luke Norris - Vice President - Platform & Digital, Granicus

It Happens in 3s - Crisis Communications Lessons from a Very Active JIC

As the new Joint Information Manager in 2019, it was an eye-opening, heart-pounding, sleep-depriving experience. But I learned more in the art of crisis communications than any book or class ever taught me and I certainly learned more about crisis management than you could ever learn in a corporate setting. A 7.1 earthquake, massive statewide power-shutoffs, and a deadly chemical leak are enough to test the most seasoned communicators. Let me share my experience, both in and out of the JIC, to help you improve your crisis communication skills.   

Presenter: Megan Person - News Chief - NASA Armstrong

Keeping the Momentum Going: Planning for the Future through Moments of Uncertainty

Community engagement is part of the fabric of the City of Decatur, but how do you plan for the future when the world is in crisis management mode? How do you motivate stakeholders to engage and give input on the next 10 years when the uncertainty of tomorrow is looming?  

Learn how the City of Decatur engaged the community in the Strategic Planning Process- the guiding framework for Decatur’s future- during the pandemic. Walk away with tips and techniques on how to host productive discussions during difficult times, build capacity for outreach through community engagement, and practice self-care through it all. Also hear stories about some of the challenges that were faced. 

Presenter: Renae Madison - Communications Manager/PIO - City of Decatur, GA

Reimagining Internal Communications – You’ve Got My Attention!

Learn how your team can create an internal communications program that promotes employee engagement. When a global pandemic paralyzed the world, the City of Tallahassee was able to continue to work, provide exceptional customer service, and keep its 3,000 employees informed about critical information. The city developed a single sign-on with instructions on how to work remotely through phones, tablets, computers and apps. All communication interactive tools are placed in a centralized location, providing easy access to timecards, benefits, citywide calendars, virtual meetings, emails and much more. Using SharePoint or a similar platform, your team can disseminate information quickly and precisely from organizational leaders, and peer-to-peer. Find out how the City of Tallahassee is reaching over 80,000 site visits quarterly by employees. You’ve got my attention!

Presenter: Dr. Sandra Manning - Communications - City of Tallahassee, FL

Reputations at Stake: How One City Handled Crisis after Crisis after Crisis

Plano, Texas has been hit with multiple communications crises within a short time span. The incidents went viral, not only across the country, but overseas as well. Steve Stoler, Director of Media Relations for the City of Plano, Texas shares how the media covered these incidents, how the City handled them, and most importantly, what other government organizations can learn from Plano's experiences, including strengths and mistakes.  

Presenter: Steve Stoler - Director of Media Relations - City of Plano, TX

Rupture the Stereotype: How to Build a Workplace Culture for the Future

As City leaders, we are all working to retain and attract employees to the world of local government. Oftentimes, local government is viewed as slow-paced with a “we’ve-always-done-it-this-way mentality.” In this new era of local government, especially as we evaluate how to move forward post-COVID, we must prepare to make internal culture shifts. In this session, you will gain ideas to transform your organization and be inspired to establish an employee-driven culture that provides a rewarding work environment. The session will provide easy-to-implement ideas to help you provide exceptional, positive experiences for your employees. You’ll learn how to be intentional about creating an environment that celebrates wins, cultivates and implements feedback from employees, and embraces efficiencies — all while continuing to provide high-level customer service to your stakeholders. This session will also help you set your organization apart from the competition, introduce low-to-no-cost benefits aimed at both retaining current employees and recruiting new ones, and provide an overview of the culture shifts you can make in your organization to rupture the stereotypes of local government. 

Presenters: Jessica Hoffman - Assistant City Administrator and Kara Roberson - Communications and Strategic Engagement Manager, City of Wentzville, MO

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, TX

Taking Your Communications Program To The Next Level

The City of Wentzville launched its Communications Division in 2014 with one part-time staff member who wore the hat of website manager, brand champion, writer/editor, graphic designer, public information officer, photographer, event planner and more — sound familiar? Now, just over seven years later, the Communications team includes two full-time employees who are poised for success and armed with resources including a Communications Audit, Communications Plan, Crisis Communications Plan, Social Media Policy, Best Practices and more. In this session, Wentzville’s Communications and Strategic Engagement Manager — along with team members from St. Louis’ Creative Entourage — will walk attendees through what it takes to tackle a communications overhaul and how implementing tools such as a communications audit and communications plan can help you more effectively and efficiently support internal and external stakeholders and the strategic goals of your organization.

Presenters: Kara Roberson - Communications and Strategic Engagement Manager - City of Wentzville, MO; Jennifer Volk - Principal/Strategic Communications - Creative Entourage

Texas Winter Storm 2021: Communicating in the Cold

Crisis situations are challenging for communicators even in the most common emergency situations. But what happens when you’re facing an historic extreme weather event that becomes a perfect storm of disasters with far reaching consequences for city services and infrastructure? In February 2021 an unprecedented winter storm hit Texas, resulting in the National Weather Service, for the first time ever, issuing winter storm warnings for all 254 counties in the state. In addition to record snow and ice, the state saw sub-zero temperatures, paralyzing the state’s power grid and leaving millions of Texans without power, some for as long as week. Cities across the state faced multiple infrastructure emergency issues (dangerous roads, lack of electricity, broken water lines and boil water notices) and families in need of warm shelters. Many communicators found themselves crafting messages amid unusual challenges and thinking outside the box on the best way to deliver those messages. Hear from a panel of Texas municipal communicators on tackling one of the state’s most extensive crisis situations to try and take care of residents facing difficulties, even if you’re one of them.

Presenters: Brian Ligon - Communications Director - City of Mont Belvieu, TX; Dorothy White - Public & Media Relations Director - City of Garland, TX; Belinda Willis - DFW Strategic Communications

The Killer Pitch: How to Get More Media Coverage, More Often

Who should I call to pitch my story idea? When should I call? How do I get them to call me back? Do press releases still work? Does social media? How do I make my stories more interesting for local reporters, or even national correspondents? Does newspaper coverage even matter anymore? How do I even know which media platforms are worth pursuing? 

These are common questions facing Communications Directors of every government entity, all the time. The fact is, attracting the interest of news managers, reporters, producers and editors is hard. Probably harder than ever. So, it's more important than ever that you know the details of a reporter's daily process, and how to partner with him or her to elicit the kind of coverage your team needs. What are the "essential ingredients" every story idea must have to attract interest? Which reporters are most likely to be receptive? What time of the day or week is the best? Are there proven "tools" that can help me widen my reach? 

The fact is, every newsroom and every paid content creator is a little different. Many strategies have proven to be successful. However, there are some very definite and consistent concepts that will pave the road to success for you and the journalists you approach. Jeff Brady spent more than two decades in newsrooms across the county, including a decade at WFAA-TV in Dallas. He is a consummate news junkie and has an addiction to the news industry. He will explain how to enhance your news media outreach to generate more more coverage, more often. 

Presenter: Jeff Brady - Director of Communications - City of Farmers Branch, TX

The Surprising Science of Community Input: What’s Helpful? What’s Useless? What’s Dangerous?

Don’t miss this fascinating and timely tour through the why, what, and how of community input. You know the value of good data in decision-making, but do you know which data you need for which decisions? You know public input can come from many channels, but do you know which channels are good for which data? From social media to surveys, with examples from 3CMA members, you’ll learn what makes some data useful and other data unrepresentative or even dangerous. So you can thrive in a world with or without in-person meetings. You’ll also see the big picture for government communications, while discovering a newfound appreciation for ordering pizza. Plus bring your own questions or input challenges and we’ll work through them at the end, in a way everyone can learn from. In this “incredibly engaging” presentation, you’ll get these answers and more:

  • When you need public input for good decisions - and when you don’t
  • What kinds of public input are helpful - and which can make decisions worse
  • What are the common mistakes to avoid – including how free input can cost you plenty

You’ll also get an understanding and a checklist of:

  • The two types of input that are always valuable and the two that never are
  •  The three part test that sifts through individual comments for the good stuff
  •  The three things you need for a valid representation of what your community thinks
  • State-of-art tools and techniques, from AI chatbots to automated surveys

Sure, you’ll leave with useful new frameworks and helpful facts. But you’ll also learn how to ignore certain people with scientific precision – it’s all part of knowing how to better manage the input you have and get the data you need. Want to serve your community better? Want to avoid mistakes that cause grief and cost millions? Wondering why a sober person would ever say: “I wished this webinar could have gone on for another hour!”? Sign up now so you don’t miss this one. 

Presenter: Kevin Lyons - Co-Founder and Chief Scientist for Governance Sciences Group, and Co-Inventor of FlashVote

Two Cities Unleash Web Chat and SMS Chat to Save Time AND Serve More Residents

Arlington and Brownsville Communications Directors Jay Warren and Felipe Romero have unleashed the AI Chatbots to dramatically increase customer service and citizen engagement for its residents through the Pandemic and after.  These systems focus on the resident user experience, work 24/7, give instant gratification to the resident and give the communications departments some time back!

Jay Warren will focus on how chatbots have dramatically increased the City's engagement numbers and provide perspective from a mature city communications department perspective.

Felipe Romero will speak to how he set up the Brownsville communications department in 2020 and immediately took to AI Chat through SMS and Web Chat to help engage and take care of the diverse community in Brownsville.

Presenters: Jay Warren - Communications Director - City of  Arlington, TX and Felipe Romero - Communications Director - City of Brownsville, TX

Wrangling the Workload: A Guide to Getting Organized

We've all experienced it. Requests incoming from every direction; and information that needs to go out in dozens of places. So, how do you wrangle it all and make sure the work gets completed? This session will be a deep dive into how the City of Bryan, Texas keeps its work requests organized using Airtable (it's FREE!). You will get a live look at how we take a work/social media request from start to finish, track things like budgets and more and hands-on experience setting up the software to solve an organization problem they're having. Everyone will leave with access to several templates that can help get them started in Airtable. Bringing your laptops is encouraged! 

Presenter: Kristen Waggener - Communications & Marketing Director - City of Bryan, TX