2022 Breakout Sessions

All I Really Need to Know about Marketing I Learned on Netflix

Stream a little too much tv on quarantine? Good news...it was all research! From Tiger King and the Fyre Festival to Friends, pop culture is full of inspiration (and red flags!) we can use to improve our programs, customer service & marketing. Marketing and customer service can be overwhelming, but the basics of what to (and what NOT to) do are all around us. The session is not only full of must-see-tv ideas & inspiration, it will help users learn to spot those clues the next time they tune in. Stay tuned!
Presenter: Ann Beck - Communications & Marketing Manager - City of Mansfield, TX

City-Wide Editorial Planning: How to Get Your Entire Organization on the Same Page

Whether you are part of a team or a one man shop, Communications professionals live in the trenches. Common complaints are that we do not have enough time, resources or stakeholder buy-in within our organizations to effectively manage the volume of communication & marketing work required. Too often, we react to these narratives rather than taking control of them, burning the candle at both ends rather than using these realities to lay the foundation for a much needed culture shift. 

This session is about empowerment. We’ll look at how to create sustainable processes that support organization-wide editorial planning and streamline content production; and how to lobby internally for implementation. We’ll teach you how to identify and cultivate content creators outside of your department to support you and your team. Finally, we’ll teach you how to operationalize your plan using Microsoft TEAMS or similar collaborative software to develop action items, assign work across departments and demonstrate ROI on activities. 

As part of this session, attendees will learn:

  • How to utilize your city’s budget process to create an editorial planning opportunity that every department can buy into (strategies implemented, tools created and brief lessons learned from our own culture shift).  
  • How to empower content creators across your organization so that they are working with you to produce quality content on a deadline- and how to create checks & balances when you aren’t the boss.
  • Concrete steps on how to get started with collaborative software. 
  • How to operationalize editorial planning and production with Microsoft TEAMS and how to setup workspaces to maximize efficiency. Though not mandatory, attendees will be encouraged to bring their laptops so they can login and demo with us as part of the session. 
  • How to demonstrate ROI to your partner departments and city leadership-laying the foundation for further investment in Communication initiatives.

Presenter: Julie Goodgame - Director, Marketing & Communications and Adriana Rodriguez - Senior Public Information Officer/Team Lead - City of Tyler, TX

Common Sense Branding

Cities across the country have been out to create the next coolest version of themselves. We call it branding. Creating a nice brand story, a tagline and jazzy new logo are the easy parts. The real challenge is taking the brand beyond the logo and into the community. This is where Steve will show you how to apply Common Sense Branding. Yes, all you need to know about real community branding you learned at five years old. In fact, Steve believes it’s the secret sauce to creating real civic-wide engagement so people are not just seeing your branding, they are living it. Common Sense Branding applies a simple premise, all businesses use at least one of the five senses in the delivery of their products and experience. When done with purpose, these senses can create lifelong memories connected to your brand (and theirs). City branding done right is common sense and Steve will show you how to do it!
Presenter: Steve Chandler - Chandlerthinks

Community Pain - Communicating Unity and Support Following a Tragedy

Unfortunately, tragedy is all too common in all our communities. The City of Waukesha, WI experienced a horrific tragedy at the annual Christmas Parade when a car drove through the parade route killing 6, physically injuring over 70 and causing emotional and psychological injuries to thousands. The media attention fades but the hurt and devastation in the community remains. How can you help a community move forward when tragedy strikes a beloved community event? Come learn practical ways the City of Waukesha helped the Community come together through communication initiatives in the days, weeks, months following the tragedy and how they continue to work on healing as they plan for upcoming parades and events. 
Presenter: Rebecca Pederson - Assistant to Mayor and City Administrator - City of Waukesha, WI

Creating Next-Level Videos that Play to your Residents’ Emotions

In 2022, it isn’t enough to just have videos. Your videos need to break through to your residents and make a lasting impression on them. That means grabbing them emotionally regardless of the subject, whether it be public safety, community development or recreation & parks. In this session, Video Production Manager Connor McFadden will illustrate the difference between videos that fail to convey their message vs. those that succeed, and how to tailor videos for each specific platform.

Topics include how to film footage for interviews & b-rolll, tips for recording clean audio, selecting music that sets the right pace & mood, and even some (beginner-level) visual effects tricks. This session spans beginner, intermediate and a few advanced techniques, offering something for all communications professionals, especially those with limited resources or production experience.
Presenter: Connor McFadden - Video Production Manager - City of Johns Creek, GA

Dual Crises as Catalyst for Change

Learn how Hennepin County, Minnesota, used the crises of the pandemic and the aftermath of George Floyd's murder as a catalyst for change to develop a trusted messenger program that now informs its communications to all communities, but especially those that are a majority of Black, Indigenous and other People of Color.

This session will focus on the organizational impact of prioritizing community engagement.  It will cover tactics and real examples of how Hennepin County expanded internal capacity by breaking down silos, centering employees lived experiences and  partnering with other local government entities. 

This session will also uncover gaps discovered in how we serve residents and show up in community. By addressing these issues, new programs were developed, including a translation pilot and Trusted Messenger program, which resulted in the County making a greater investment in community engagement and gave residents a voice regarding issues that impact their daily lives.  
Presenters: Jamie Zwilling - Chief Communications Officer and Kelsey Dawson Walton - Engagement Services Division Manager - Hennepin County, MN

Earmarking Equity and Trust: Adding Capacity and Building Best Practices Into Your City's Listening Architecture

Is your city or county listening as much as it should? And is your listening leading to action and change? This session helps you audit the ways that your organization listens, finding the gaps and building in accountability, so that when residents speak, their words and ideas aren't overlooked. Drs. English and Lambiase will help you identify new roles for communicators, especially for a "listener-in-chief," where the buck stops on listening. They will share quick research and theories, and then give you practical ideas for building and maintaining a listening culture through engagement practices and two-way dialogue.
Presenters: Ashley E. English, Ph.D. - Assistant Professor of Strategic Communication and Jacqueline Lambiase, Ph.D. - Professor of Strategic Communication - Texas Christian University

How to Achieve More By Doing Less: The Ultimate Guide to Public Engagement Tools and Techniques

Ever wonder… if certain kinds of public engagement are really worth doing? What are the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches? Which techniques solve (or don’t solve) which problems? Maybe you’re just feeling a little confused (or overwhelmed) with so many vendors offering so many “engagement” tools? 

If so, this transformative session is for you. You’ll not only get to see a full range of options you might not know about, you’ll learn the “why” behind all the engagement you should and shouldn’t be doing, including:

  • Which types of engagement solve or don’t solve (or create) which problems
  • Which approaches take the most time while delivering the least value to your community
  • Which technologies create work for you instead of saving you time
  • When should you not engage, including how to avoid “engage to enrage” scenarios
  • How to do different types of engagement well, including live exercises and question writing

After this session you’ll be able to look at all the engagement you are doing and know exactly what to cut, change or expand to serve your community better. You’ll also leave with a copy of the brand new for 2022 “Ultimate Public Engagement Guide” that this session is based on - created and vetted in collaboration with the Davenport Institute for Engagement at Pepperdine, the Certified Public Communicator program at TCU, professors from Harvard and UNC, Governance Sciences Group and others. 
Presenters: Kevin Lyons - Founder & CEO - FlashVote and Maureen Tobin - Executive Director - Davenport Institute

How to Make a Really Big Deal, about a Really Big Deal – Promoting Landmark Projects

They are the rare legacy projects for an organization - the new building or amenity with a hefty price tag that will make a marked difference in the everyday lives of residents. The projects that are a really big deal to your organization, and it is your job, to make them a real big deal to the community as well. Hear from the City of Santa Clarita, how they promoted, not one, but three landmark projects in the span of one-year. Find out how they hyped up the community, media and got social media buzzing about a new ice and entertainment center, a new Sheriff’s Station and a spectacular Community Center. You’ll learn about their approach to utilizing video, augmented reality, emerging social media platforms, community art projects, behind-the-scenes construction photos, the LA Kings and even police dogs to build excitement about these projects. You’ll leave with concrete tips on how to build a strong foundation of community hype, worthy of your most important projects. 
Presenter: Carrie  Lujan - Communications Division Manager/PIO - City of Santa Clarita, CA

How to Nurture and Protect Your Organization's Credibility

Governments across the board are facing a crisis of credibility. Large numbers of citizens do not believe the information coming from what were once a trusted source: us! In fact, many folks now believe that if the government says it, that's reason enough to not trust it. While this cynical attitude is more pervasive at the federal and state levels, it is infecting local government, too. In this session you'll learn what it takes to establish, maintain and build trust with your community. It's not easy and requires political courage, but it is oh so worth it! Expect to be engaged in this session with questions about how your community currently handles difficult or controversial issues. You'll be able to take what you learn in this session and apply it when you get back home. The presenter, Will Hampton, is a veteran local government communicator with a track record of success in shepherding controversial projects to successful implementation.
Presenter: Will Hampton - Senior Vice President - Strategic Government Resources

How to Reach The Hard To Reach

Is it hard for you to engage certain members of your community? Are you wondering why? Would you like to do better? Are you looking for tips and tricks to make things easier?

You are not alone. Every community has similar challenges and lessons to share.

In this session, you’ll first learn all about who is harder to reach and why. We’ll dispel some misconceptions and then show you how to measure these challenges for your community, including exactly how much extra effort you might need.

Then you’ll learn what you can do differently to do better. You’ll get data and examples that you can copy from successful digital and non-digital initiatives.

You’ll leave with a clear understanding of real challenges, but you’ll have new tools and ideas for connecting with the quieter voices in your community.
Presenters: Bratton Riley - Citibot and Kevin Lyons - FlashVote

Oh, Just Write Me a Little Something

In the beginning, PIOs were all about the written and spoken word. And in many regards, we still are, though our repertoire of communication tools has broadened quite a lot. In this breakout session, I propose to focus on the written word and those “just a little something” speeches we’re expected to crank out, often at a moment’s notice.

I first taught public speaking as a graduate student at the University of Michigan. Throughout my life — as a print and broadcast journalist, a nonprofit volunteer, even as the wife of a college swim coach — my ability to quickly write a tight and focused speech has been a valuable skill. And now, as a county communications director serving a variety of elected officials and department directors, I find this skill getting tapped quite often.

I propose to break down and analyze the process, from audience and topic research, speech structure, writing and rewrites, to figuring out the strengths and weaknesses of the person for whom you’re writing. This includes calculating their words per minute, their “stumble words,” and — for those who dare — a handy exercise to drum filler words like “um” and “you know” out of a public speaker’s vocabulary.
Presenter: Jane Hawes - Director of Communications - Delaware County, OH

Navigating Public Engagement Fatigue and Difficult Conversations, What It Takes

Responding and bouncing back from a major crisis is an important feature of any successful government or municipal agency. The COVID pandemic highlighted just how much  policy begins with people, including the people in the workplace. Local government staff have been on the frontlines in the last two years, navigating a continually changing public engagement landscape that has led to fatigue on both the community and staff side. Furthermore, a volatile and unexpected situation like a pandemic or natural disaster can lead to difficult and emotional conversations within an organization and in the community. How to navigate difficult conversations during public engagement is an important leadership skill to learn and cultivate. How do you handle conversations that are highly emotional? How can you ensure your staff has the capacity for difficult public engagement? Successfully navigating these emotional and difficult conversations during a time of public engagement fatigue can lead to better relationships with the community and your team. 

This 60-minute session will walk you through preparing your team to effectively navigate difficult conversations during our current period of public engagement fatigue. How to navigate difficult conversations during public engagement is an important leadership skill to learn and cultivate, especially now. 
Presenters: Maureen Tobin - Executive Director and Pooja Di Giovanna - Assistant Director for Professional Education - Davenport Institute

Polarization Online and How to Balance Extreme Voices in Your Community

When you look at social media and comments about national politics, everything seems so polarized. You see a lot of arguing, finger-pointing, and very little listening. But when it comes to local government decisions for an entire community, polarization just doesn’t work.

The good news is there are ways that local governments can handle extremism online and find out what average residents really think about the community. In this session, you’ll hear how you can protect your online audiences while successfully gathering more balanced, accurate community feedback. You may even find that most people’s values aren’t as opposite as it seems. Join us to hear from community engagement experts and practitioners, get actionable tips, and learn from other local governments surmounting polarization online. 

In This Session:

  1. Identify the most common sources of polarization and negativity encountered by local governments
  2. Get best practices and examples of what other local governments have done to handle polarization
  3. Understand how to hear from more balanced voices within your community

Presenter: Meghan Ruble - Polco / National Research Center

Real Stories that Make a Real Impact: How using authentic voices drives a stronger ROI

In a world of easy-to-access stock photos of happy people and families, it’s easy to think that real voices don’t matter. It’s simple to grab these off-the-shelf images, but do they really move people to take action? Does it really matter if you use authentic, real stories or just create a safe, anonymous story with clipart?

In this session, you'll see examples of authentic campaigns that have utilized real people to share their stories, resulting in changed hearts and minds and successful results.
Presenters: Stacy Beard - External Communications Director - Wake County, NC and Dawn Crawford - Owner and Chief Communicator - BC/DC Ideas

Tell Your Story First - The Benefits of Being the Trusted Source

If your outreach strategy relies on local media, consider flipping the order and making a news release the last step in your communication process.

Communications staff from the City of Hillsboro, Oregon, will discuss how to be first to share news and announcements with your community to build trust, deliver key context, and lessen your reliance on outside media to get the word out for you.
Presenter: Patrick Preston - Communications Division Manager - City of Hillsboro, OR

The Role of Video in Communications and the Equipment to Make it Easy

Do you really need video content for your agency? Do you need original content? Absolutely You DO! 

This session will cover what role video plays in your communications, how to get buy in for from your boss, how to tell your story, and the tools you need to make it all happen. Whether you have a good sized budget or almost no budget, there will be info on the tools you need to make great content along with a little show and tell. 
Presenter: Catherine Glasby - Public Information Director - Chatham County, GA

Understanding The Polar Divide in Your Community

We see constant evidence of growing polarization and incivility in our communities. This breakout session will dive deep into the data to help attendees understand what has changed and how it impacts how people look at others who think differently than them. Political Communication Scholar Dr. Myiah Hutchens has researched how thinking has changed over time and what seems to move the needle towards people being more open to different opinions and ideas. The results will likely surprise you, and it will have direct application to the work you do every day in resident engagement. She will share her findings on the causes and consequences of exposure to information a person disagrees with and strategies to make those conversations more productive. 
Presenter: Myiah J. Hutchens, Ph.D. - Associate Professor & Interim Chair, Department of Public Relations - College of Journalism and Communications, University of Florida

Using Canva like a Pro

Learn some of the best kept Canva secrets and unlock hacks & features that can be extremely useful for canva designers like you. In this demo-style, hands-on session, we'll look at newer Canva features like document upload, creating QR codes, workflow hacks, and more. We encourage you to bring your Canva login and work through these how-to's during the session!
Presenter: Anndrea Harris - Social Media Marketing - City of Wichita Falls, TX

Utilizing Creative Storytelling to Engage Diverse Audiences

The City of Arlington, Texas communication team will detail some of the creative and innovative ways to approach storytelling for important community topics, including stop-motion animation, multilingual communication strategies and thinking outside the box to recharge and reintroduce annual initiatives like budget transparency, public health messaging and tailoring communications/messaging in a way that truly resonates with specific audiences.
Presenters: Jay Warren - Director of Communication and Legislative Affairs and Ryan Hunt - Communications Coordinator/Managing Editor - City of Arlington, TX

WTH Just Happened?

The Great Resignation. The Big Quit. The Great Reshuffle. Whatever you want to call it, people are FRIED. And communications professionals might be the crispiest of them all. After two years of what felt like constant crisis communications, we find ourselves working harder than ever. We've emerged (have we?) from a global pandemic only to find that community members seem to have gotten pricklier, Council members less patient, and coworkers have just up and left. So in this new reality, how do we find time, space, and permission to take care of ourselves, take care of our teammates, and fall in love with local government again?

In the session, we'll talk about how to:

  • help your organization recognize the importance and the demands of communications
  • effectively advocate for additional resources
  • lead by example
  • foster appreciation and gratitude for local government and all its quirks

Presenter: Kim Newcomer - CEO/Founder - Slate Communications

You're A Responder Too

Stress. As communications professionals we love to think we eat it for breakfast. When “it” hits the fan, we’re cool under the hot lights and smooth on the mic. Day to day, we wear five different hats and switch them minute to minute without blinking. We can handle it, right? The truth is… we can’t. Join us for an important session that will help you define and identify trauma, unpack burnout, and show you how to develop skills to deal with drama.
Presenters: Brian Ligon - Communications & Marketing Director - City of Mont Belvieu, TX and Jessica Ligon, M.Ed