Team to Develop Plan to Foster Two-Way Communication
After recent discussions about how the City communicates with its residents, the City of Marshfield has formed a communications team to better examine the current situation and to develop a comprehensive communications plan for the City moving forward.
“It’s not that the City is falling short of legal requirements in providing notifications of meetings, public hearings, ordinance changes, etc., but rather that there should be a more intentional effort to promote and encourage active two-way communication with our citizens and foster true civic engagement,” said City Administrator Steve Barg.
Challenges that the City currently faces include identifying which information the public wants and needs to have communicated to them, ensuring that information is communicated timely and accurately, and defining which mediums to use for communication (website, social media, newspapers, radio, tv, etc…).
“Effective communication is critical because this affects so many aspects of our citizens’ lives, such as: Are there changes coming to the municipal services they depend on? What opportunities are available for themselves and their families (i.e. recreation, services, etc.)? How can they become involved in their city government?” said Barg.
Primary goals of the Communications Team include analyzing and evaluating opportunities for improvement, and proposing a comprehensive communications plan for review and consideration by the Mayor and City Council.
Members of the team were selected by the Mayor, in consultation with Barg, and appointed by the City Council on March 14th.
“The intent was to bring together a mix of City and non-City representatives with an interest in and some background in the area of communications,” said Barg.
Alderman Jason Zaleski will serve as one of the team members, and he is looking forward to helping.
“During my aldermanic campaign in 2016, I spoke often about a lack of communication from the City of Marshfield to the residents of Marshfield,” he said. I told residents of District 7 that as Alderman, I would always be accessible to them and communicate to them often. I also told my friends and neighbors that I would also bring the communications issue to the council and city staff, so I am ecstatic that this committee has been formed.”
Having studied communications in college, Zaleski brings a unique understanding of the foundations of public communications.
“I’ve always been a strong communicator and have a passion for how people and groups are able to communicate with one another,” he said. “Never before in my lifetime have I been able to make and receive communications in so many ways. TV, newspaper, direct mail, Facebook, Twitter, other social media, radio and spoken word. All of these methods are effective, worthwhile, and needed.”
Zaleski feels that the City of Marshfield does many great things to help care for the health, happiness, and success of its residents, but notes that one area where the City has had trouble meeting these standards is in making important information available and providing easy access to the information.
“Last summer I surveyed Marshfield residents and discovered that our residents all desire the City to communicate with them. The most important discovery that I made during the survey was that no two people prefer to receive communication from the city in the same way,” he said. “ I hope to see results from the team that allow the city to communicate in all methods available. Successful results will also allow Marshfield residents to communicate with the city in the method they are most comfortable with.”
As manager of one of the City’s most successful social media pages, Marshfield Police Chief Rick Gramza is eager to see the Communications Team develop a plan, clear tasks and expectations, accountability, and follow-up to those tasks, to better improve communication within the City.
“Transparency and communication in city government is essential for the citizens to know what is going on,” he said. “Depending on age, not everyone watches MCTV or reads the newspaper. Why not give people who use social media a way to stay informed and be a part of the city by voicing their opinion or asking a question?”
Gramza also believes that there are voids in communication with other aspects of the city, such as current events within the city.
“We currently have no one-stop-show for what is happening, and to be successful, we cannot always depend on people to volunteer to do it in their spare time without being tasked with specifics because it won’t get done. That is why we have failed at delivering the message…because no one knows what they should be doing or sharing and there is no consistency with it. The communication team will change that!”
Gramza, along with both City officials and residents, hopes that as a whole the team knows how vital it is to make this work and be successful.
“There are some who may not yet be buying into the importance of this team and how necessary it is, but maybe they are just uninformed or uninterested due to being uninformed,” he said. “If this is done right, we will be able to look back five years from now and point to this team as a pivot point to new heights reached as a community.”
The team is expected to meet 3-5 times over the course of the next three months. The first meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 5 at 4:00pm.
Communications Team Members are:
As the team begins meeting and this process moves forward, Barg welcomes any comments and suggestions that the public may have on how the City can better communicate with the community. Please contact Steve at 486-2003 or Steve.Barg@ci.marshfield.wi.us with any input.