The Public Works Nerds

Upping your Social Media Game with Kevin Wright from the City of Chaska, MN

July 25, 2023 Marc Culver, PE and Mike Spack, PE Season 1 Episode 10
The Public Works Nerds
Upping your Social Media Game with Kevin Wright from the City of Chaska, MN
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode, Kevin Wright, Communications Manager for the City of Chaska, MN, talks to us about how to use Social Media for public works events and projects. We talk about how Chaska is using Social Media, what platforms they are on and where the public is engaging with the City on social media. We also talk about the recently released "20 Tips to Up Your Agency's Social Media Game" which is a guide published by the Minnesota Local Road Research Board.

20 Tips to Up Your Agency's Social Media Game
https://mdl.mndot.gov/items/202215

Referenced Book:
Nudge: The Final Edition - Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein
https://www.amazon.com/Nudge-Final-Richard-H-Thaler-dp-014313700X/dp/014313700X/ref=dp_ob_image_bk

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Public Works Nerds podcast with Mark and Mike. Welcome to the Public Works Nerds podcast. I'm Mike Spack, I'm Mark Albert and we're your co-hosts. Today, we're talking about upping your agency's social media game with Kevin Wright, who's been the communications manager for the city of Chaska since 2018. Welcome, kevin.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, thanks for having me, mark and Mike. It's an honor to be here, my first podcast.

Speaker 1:

Oh, that's great.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I'm a communications director. I know Usually I'm the one behind the camera, so it's nice to have a change of pace. Why don't?

Speaker 1:

you tell us a little bit about your background, what you're doing at Chaska and your career evolution. I know you started in sports professional sports and how the heck did you end up working for a city?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, probably not the normal path to local government work, but most of my professional career well, we'll start back. I grew up in Michigan, then went to the University of Michigan, wanted to be a sports journalist there, so it started in my career in journalism, we'll say. Then got really into what makes a sports event happen, so went, did an internship at the 2008 Ryder Cup in Louisville, kentucky, and then just loved that experience. That was all in operations. So that was moving porta-potties, putting offence, all the stuff that no one asks you about. That's like the public. Yeah, that's public, it is. Yeah, that's why I feel like I've gravitated so well to public works. No, but then so I loved that and really wanted to continue that career. So ended up working for the PGA of America, which does the PGA Championship in Ryder Cup and senior PGA championship Wow, the women's PGA championship. It's four about 10 years, then eight years really in 10 events. So moved around a lot to different parts of the country, from Atlanta as a big major market, to French, like Indiana, which, if you're a basketball fan, is Larry Bird I'm a Larry Bird, yes, yeah. So I got to see the house he grew up in and the gym is still the same and the coach that coached him was actually, ironically, back coaching the team again for a brief period of time. So, yeah, you could go to a lot of different places and it was all on operations and logistics, so really kind of all the back of house things of building a little city. Honestly, on the golf course when I got to Minnesota was for the 2016 Ryder Cup and then after the Ryder Cup I decided to leave the PGA and went to work for the Super Bowl host committee. I was here in 2018. So that was a great opportunity to again kind of continue to flex the event muscles and just work a different type of event, and so my focus was traffic and transportation in there. So working with, like Metro Transit, minneapolis, public Works, bloomington because our Super Bowl was spread out because of our smaller downtown, so we had St Paul, minneapolis and Bloomington were kind of like the main hubs, so great experience there. And then still had kept in touch with the folks in Chaska from my time working the Ryder Cup there and the communications manager position came open and said you know, one of the things I liked about what I did in events was, you know, that connection you can make with the local government employees and the impact that you could see they have within the community. You know more so on a local level than you know like a state level or federal level. So I was like, oh, that's a would be a great opportunity to kind of continue doing what I love and in a city where it's got a lot of different things going on from curling to, you know, major golf events to just a lot of different things. So you kind of knew you would still be able to kind of be flexible and do many things. So when I became the communications manager in 2018, it was a new position for the city, so they hadn't had one that was citywide before. So it was really kind of they had social media and they had all the kind of the basics, but there wasn't one person that was kind of, you know, kind of organizing at all. So really, you know my tasks are social media, website, you know, traditional media, kind of doing any requests like that and that we get, and then really just working with all our different departments on ways we can promote what they're doing or if we need to notify people, you know, whatever's going on, whether it's a road closure or water main break, or you know, we recently just had our one of our wells went offline. The pump broke so we lost some capacity. So you know trying to get people to limit watering, so you know things like that. It's constantly different things and I guess you learn just enough to be dangerous about many things and they still don't. Let me operate on you.

Speaker 1:

But so today we're going to talk about social media, but can you zoom out a little bit? What's the kind of the landscape? I think lots of cities are using the local cable to send out the city council meetings and sending out in the local paper, if the city still has one. They're putting in notices and writing articles and they're sending out letters. But can you lay out the landscape of all the things under your umbrella?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's, and it's always tough because I always tend to forget them, because you just kind of go from one to the next that you're doing. But it's really, if you think about from like city council meetings and city commission meetings, you're broadcasting and producing those. So those go. You know, we have our franchise agreement with Comcast is our cable provider in Chaska. They're the only ones that are there currently. So our cable or our council meetings go out on our community channel there. You know, one thing you've seen a lot of different cities do and we're one of them is you know, if you don't have Comcast, we also live stream it to YouTube. And so you know kind of making sure our public meetings are available to everyone, public open houses, promoting those. We're working right now on upgrading all of our city facilities, or many of them, so like our public works building and our police and fire. So really kind of creating a campaign around. How do we let people know what's the impact? You know tax wise, and then also you know what's the value and why they're needed. So kind of really kind of framing what we're doing and why we're doing it. So bigger projects or bigger kind of themes like that. And then also your day to day. You know there's going to be an apartment complex going up over here, so you work with community development. You work with engineering. You know you work with parks and rec so you really try to connect into our. We have in our own electric utility so we so if the power goes out, that's that's us responding to that. So you know, working with how do we kind of better let people know when there's a power outage. So it's kind of kind of rambling. But there's a lot of different things, from postcards to newspapers, to YouTube, to social media. So you know we try to make sure we're. We recognize that not everyone's on social media, so we have to make sure we get to everyone as much as we can.

Speaker 3:

So you kind of touch on that. As far as the number of people that you think are on social media, like, what percentage of that audience do you think you're engaging through the different social media platforms and which ones do you think are the most successful at that right now?

Speaker 2:

Which of the platforms are for. For Chaska, I'd say Facebook's, probably, are predominantly used social media platforms. So most of our residents are on Facebook, whether they're following one of our city accounts or they're in one of the local Facebook groups. There are more resident based groups. They're getting a lot of their information from those areas. Chaska is kind of still a growing community, so we have a lot of new residents. So those are the people that are probably more on social media and more on the Facebook groups. And then we have some older residents that they still read. They get all their news from the Chaska here. Yeah, and that's our local newspaper and that's. And that's why you can't you know, you can't just say I'm just going to move digital, because that's where everything is these days, and you know I don't have to make paper and I don't have to print all these things and say everyone will get it there. But then you go to like a coffee with a cop and you know someone sitting in and says I didn't see that in the Herald, anyone. And it's like well, yeah, that's true, we got to make sure. You know, we're still kind of reaching everyone where they get their news. How often is the Herald published?

Speaker 3:

It's a weekly Weekly. Okay, yeah, we. I was a public work instructor in Roseville and we lost our local paper, like we had one when I started there. We had the Roseville review or whatever it was now. But, and we shared it. It was, you know it's little Canada, roseville, parts of Falkland Heights and that. But, and a lot of those you know, smaller community newspapers are really struggling, particularly around the metro area where people get their news from either the Star Tribune or the Pioneer Press, and so we lost it and we do get that feedback that. You know that was a huge conduit for us to get information to our residents, particularly, like you said, you know, the older generation, those that just aren't on social media, and you know the Star Tribune isn't going to cover local Roseville stuff. You know they'll cover the big Roseville stuff but they're not going to cover the what happened in the city, Kelm's right, right and things like that. So that's a really big gap and you know now the challenge for a lot of those cities is how do you, how do you make that up? You know we Roseville had their quarterly newsletters, but that's quarterly or it was every other month. I'm sorry, it was every other month.

Speaker 1:

And would those newsletters be just mailed out to all residents? Yes, wow, yes, that's quite the production expense.

Speaker 3:

It is, but particularly with the loss of the newspaper, you almost have to do that to keep some of those things that are really important to the city, that you want to make sure your residents are aware of, to get it out there, because the residents are going to go to the website. You know they're not going to. They're not, they can. There's multiple ways to engage with the city council meetings. Now they're not going to do that. Only dorks like me are going to do that. I still log in and check in on Roseville city council.

Speaker 2:

I get yelled at at home all the time. Yeah, Because I find myself on the public access channel and my wife is like why are we, why are we watching this? Right?

Speaker 3:

Right. So I guess maybe you know. Let's talk a little bit more about the actual social media side. Where do you see you know you said that Facebook's kind of where people are mostly engaged. Do you see that changing at all? Do you see any of the newer social media platforms gaining in popularity? I mean, what are you guys doing to evolve, or how has social media evolved within the city of Chasco?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean, I'd say one thing for sure that we did when I started was we added an Instagram account. That was a way, you know, instagram tends to skew to a younger audience. You know. We also are became more active on places like Twitter, youtube and really, I think where we looked at and with we don't have a whole lot of resources I'm a department of, in reality one. I have a part time staff that does a lot of our city meetings, the filming of it and in some video production on the side, so kind of have to look at resources to just say where can we really kind of create a value add without just creating a TikTok account and then never having anything on it? Tiktok's one of the things we are looking at. We haven't necessarily created an account yet, but it's just another platform where you can kind of continue to engage more people. But yeah, I think for Instagram and then another thing we did is try to really look at our YouTube channels more than just our public meetings. Where can we create whether it's mayor updates, like little three minute videos or there's three things you mentioned that are going on in the city, or a chance to go take a ride along with the police department or what goes into fixing a water main. So really kind of trying to create little videos and series and activating YouTube even more, cause there's a lot of people on. YouTube I mean, just try to fix your garage and find I don't know 700 videos.

Speaker 3:

Do you have any idea of the demographics of those that are engaging on the YouTube side?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean, I think like nationally, if you wanna kind of look at it in that span, it's about 81% of people that I would say use social media, use YouTube, and you see a lot of it going in with YouTube. But then YouTube's can be a long form, which by that I mean it can be more than 10 minutes. It can be longer type videos, because you're gonna have people that are going there to watch something. They can watch a full length documentary on YouTube. They're not gonna probably watch something that's 10 minutes or longer on Facebook, right? So you know, on the short form platform, as we're so like you know, videos that are 30 seconds to three minutes is where we kind of look at like Instagram reels and you know more of that TikTok style video on our Facebook and Instagram platforms to really kind of reach those audiences there.

Speaker 1:

So in my company and many things I've been involved with, I was taught kind of marketing, one-on-one. Start with who's your demographic and almost try to come up with an avatar of what they care about, what they like, what they don't like, where they hang out, and then come up with kind of branding guides. So things are consistent. How has Jessica dealt with that? Is that a best practice over on the public side or is that more just a private company thing?

Speaker 2:

No, I think that's a best practice on the public side too. I mean, we haven't had the time to invest a lot into kind of more of the policy and the communication planning like a document style, like I would say, for sure, do that. Unfortunately for us we just haven't had the bandwidth to kind of really formulate those into like documents. But one way I kind of look at getting to know the audience is by being out in the community. So that's kind of one of the things I took from when I started this position was, and kind of one thing that's really promoted within the city of Chaska itself is to get out into the community and to kind of really be out there, be a part of it and get to know people that way, so by going to community events, by going to coffee with the cops or smaller events or neighborhood meetings, really trying to figure out, okay, well, where are you hearing that or where's that rumor maybe coming from? I posted about this but it didn't seem like you've heard about it, so where could I give you information? So to me I wouldn't say this is the recommended approach as far as like just kind of absorbing it all in your mind and not putting on paper. Definitely put something on paper, build that avatar kind of, create your audience and that gives you that guideline that you can kind of build your team around. But one way to also help do that is to actually kind of physically get out in the community as well.

Speaker 1:

So are you looking at, kind of, the monthly calendar for the city and just saying, okay, I need to get to an event a week, or do you have a? Do you have a discipline around this, or is it just kind of ad hoc?

Speaker 2:

You know, I hate to admit it, but it's a little, I would say, ad hoc and I don't really. I mean, I've built out my calendar with kind of when events are happening and or if someone lets me know something's going on, and I try to make as many as I can of maybe just for, I guess, personal work-life balance, try to dial back a little bit on that and then kind of have other staff members that I know I can rely on to say, hey, I need to picture at this event. But initially for sure, and because this is the approach I took when I was in events with the PGA and with the Ryder Cup and with the Super Bowl is I'm coming into a new community wherever I go and to tell them we're gonna put this whole thing together, we're going to disrupt your schedule. You know we're gonna probably close the course, we're gonna maybe close this road. You know we're gonna adjust a traffic pattern and you know I'm coming into their world and doing that. So I need to understand that. They need to understand that I'm invested too. So that's kind of the approach I took to say, yeah, let's invest in going to these community events, let's invest in trying to go to the smaller ones and the bigger ones and figure out. You know what makes this community tick.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and I love that approach because, whether it's the specific events or thinking about what's going on in the city, they are very parallel. The water pump going on is a mini event. It is something that is happening. It affects a group of people, it will be fixed. But keeping people up to date in the process, and the worst thing you can do is leave a vacuum of information People will make up stories and they always make up the worst case story, so that getting the info out there. Have you used Twitter at all? What other? Or is Facebook? Just where people are living?

Speaker 2:

Oh, no, we use Twitter too. Yeah, no, we use Facebook. So where we are currently is Facebook. Twitter, instagram and YouTube are our main ones. Okay, are you posting? And next door? Sorry, yeah, next door?

Speaker 1:

Oh I bet. Yeah, next door is a big one. Are you? Do you post the content on the city's website and then kind of copy paste that same content to these different platforms? Or are you trying to tailor each message Because Twitter's more short form, youtube is the longest form? Like they kind of have their own styles? Are you bending to the styles of the platform?

Speaker 2:

Yes, for sure. I tried to post natively to each platform. The message may be similar, but it would be adjusted based on where I'm posting. So Facebook might have a little bit longer of an explanation above the graphic, a chance to kind of really hone in on that. More than neighborly voice, let's say like hey, friends, or kind of like explaining a little bit more around what's happening, Whereas like Twitter it's a little bit more to the point because you don't want to get too far into saying here's the link, just read the link. Because what we found is that most people don't click on the link. You can put the link in there and some people, if they want more information, we'll do that, but the majority of the people are just gonna see what you post natively.

Speaker 1:

Okay, one thing I've been playing with for the podcast and we have a pulled the trigger on it. It's something called Sprout AI, which pulled in the audio from the podcast, took made a transcript of it, wrote a thousand word summary article and then broke out here's a Twitter, a LinkedIn edit, kind of, for each style. It took the article and broke a summary for each style and it wasn't at all where I wanted it to be. So we haven't pulled the trigger. But I just wonder if this AI stuff, if we can write it one place and then boom, have it, bend the styles around and craft it. I wonder if someday there's that universe that could help us all quickly, because it takes time to rewrite and think about what we're doing.

Speaker 2:

Oh, for sure, and AI is one of those things, like the chat, gpt and all those that go into it. One thing we're just kind of just actually this week we're starting to look into, I heard about like Adobe audio AI, which you can input your audio into and it scrubs it and makes it sound like it's coming from a studio like this. So like on some of our videos that are out and about really trying to enhance that video where it might be impacted by someone with a backup beeper or things like that. So, yeah, I know I think AI really is a helpful tool. You just wanna make sure you look at it and say is here's the basics? How does this fit in with the voice I've created?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's the tricky part. Do you feel like? Have you gotten direction from the city administrator or other staff of here is the voice of Chaska. Here is what we should be, because there's a whole spectrum of how funny we think we are, how entertaining we think we are. Some of us think we should dress up in a dragon costume and make YouTube videos.

Speaker 2:

I listened to that one. That's a great idea. I was thinking about trying to implement that and also the Minnesota driving part at the end of it too. Yeah, I think, you know, unique to my role was that it was a new position and, I think, unique to Chaska maybe. I mean I haven't worked at another city or another local government agency to really compare. But I know from our leadership standpoint you're given the freedom to kind of take your role, understanding kind of. You know what are the important factors of communicating with the public, making sure they're aware, but then putting your spin on it. So there's never any oversight of where. If I'm from day one, really, if I was to post something to say I need to have it approved by this person first and then I can get it back and then I can post it. So it was pretty much. You know, feel free to post what you want. I mean, if there's a more serious kind of message that we want to all coordinate beforehand, obviously we're all working together on that and I would voluntarily, you know, pass that along to someone else to look at. But for the most part it's taking my voice and kind of making that the voice Okay.

Speaker 1:

With the water well issues right now, kind of what's the cadence of communications when you have an emergency you're dealing with and you want to get that word out. And I'm thinking many of our listeners, their cities have a communications director manager that can help them. But we also know we have lots of folks listening in smaller communities where, hey, the public works director doesn't have someone. So, like Chaska seven, eight years ago. But the public works director probably should be getting the information out there and can't rely on postcards.

Speaker 2:

Well, right, well right, a real time event, yes. And then, because the postcards are going to take time where you don't necessarily have the time, so you know, with what happened last week, you know, one of our wells we have pretty sure it's six wells, if I'm remembering correctly, or might be five, but anyway, it doesn't matter. That's thankfully not my job. I clearly tell for the public works. People listening, that's sorry, that's not my forte, but one of our wells went down, which was 25% of our capacity, and in the summertime what draws the most capacity is lawn watering and lawn irrigation. So you know, as a city we are and we're in a drought, and we're in a drought. So you know, hey, let's get everything together and just have some fun, yeah. But so what we did is our water and sewer director called me and we talked with our assistant city administrator. Our city administrator kind of worked together to kind of say, hey, what do we want? To kind of say right now? You know, we don't want to get to the point where we're having to put in a mandatory watering ban. We know, we still want to allow our residents, we still want to provide the service to our residents, but we want to let them know that our capacity is severely impacted or not severely but, you know, pretty heavily impacted. And so we put an initial message out telling people what happened and also why we're trying to tell them not to water. I think a lot of people forget that the water also services the fire hydrants. Yeah, and you know, like a big thing with providing water is providing the ability for fire protection and I think it sometimes gets lost because you just see the fire truck, you don't necessarily always see it hooked up to the fire hydrant, unless you're having like a neighborhood splash party or something Right, but anyway. So we put a post out right away and then we kind of started monitoring where our water levels were at, because you know our public works, our water and sewer department, can monitor that and take a look. So you know, when we noticed that the first night they were, they were higher than they typically would be. That's not the direction we're wanting to go. We're wanting to see those lower down.

Speaker 3:

Oh my God, we're running out of water. We better use it now. Right. Fill the bathtub Right.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, and he also, while people know that, you know, and we were also bringing in an auxiliary well that is used for like peak times and you know the wells treated, you know it gets inspected and you know, inspected by the state every month, but it doesn't necessarily run through a water treatment plan. So we also want to let people know. Like you know, there may be some discoloration because of that water. It's still safe. So we wanted to kind of include as much as we could with how to impact the population. But then we went out and posted it again and said you know, hey, kind of going the wrong direction. Yeah, we're serious here. Yeah, so we do want you to significantly reduce your watering and really help us out here so we don't have to get to the next step, which would be putting a watering ban. So just maybe let's extend, you know, wait a few extra days between watering, that kind of thing. And then since then we've kind of just let that message kind of develop and naturally get shared and get out there. Our utility billing department's also called, like our more higher known users, Like, so like the HOAs, and you know, oh, yeah, yeah, that's a good idea and so like and so when we were talking about earlier, it's not just social media. I know this is kind of the focus of today, but the original social media. Exactly the phone, right, but the phone was originally made for me, yeah, and very rarely used for it, yeah, but yeah. So they called some of our bigger users let them know, explain the situation. So it was a multifaceted approach of, and we sent an email to all of our utility customers to let them know that way too. So and then right now we're kind of just seeing. You know, with the rain we had this weekend, you know the water usage went down. So we're going to kind of see how it looks these first few days this week or I guess we're already on Thursday but probably post again now because with shorter attention spans, a lot of times people read it at first, make the change that day and then five days later, like that's probably fixed Right. So I'll just get out of the town. Well, you know, the yard's looking a little brown. So that's kind of been our approach with this specific Okay.

Speaker 3:

Hey everyone, I just want to take a quick moment to thank our sponsor, bulton Mink, who is producing and editing our podcast.

Speaker 4:

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Speaker 1:

Do you get into the trying to think about it or phrase this, the psychology of the messaging? There's a read a book called Nudge by Richard Taylor, nobel Prize winning economist, of just how we present the information kind of can nudge people and the Obama administration and Tony Blair kind of set up nudge units and their big government. Of just how do you set up the defaults. Like if the default is to everybody who comes in as a new employee is expected to put their minimum amount and whatever the pension plan is, the retirement account, then more people do it. Like just what is the default checkbox? And there's studies around hey, if here's how we get people to recycle more by talking about most of your neighbor's recycle versus you should recycle because it's good, like just how we go about crafting the messages does have an impact. Have you studied that? Do you think about that? How do you suggest public works directors kind of craft their messages?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and we do think about that and I would say not to give. Well, to answer your question, I would say for us we always try to put it in more of a positive tone. So it's help us, or you know, here's something you can do Versus don't do this or you can't do that. You know a lot of I mean, I think, most people. I probably would put myself in this boat if someone told me I can't do that. I'm probably gonna have more of a negative reaction to that than if someone was like, hey, if you do this, that'll help. When you're really saying the same thing, yes, so, like you know, help us by just reducing your water usage this week. You know we're we got a plan to get the well fixed, but right now we just we want to make sure we have that capacity for you. So you know, it's kind of putting it like we're trying to. We're trying to still provide the same level of service we can at this time. You know we're not mandator, we're not making it so you can't water at all, but help us kind of. Let's all work together as a community here to kind of get this to a point where we know we can kind of Also protect your house if it's a fire.

Speaker 1:

I Think that's important for us engineers to hear, because I think we're or such rules followers and rules people. Come on, you're not supposed to park. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just you put a rule out there and you expect compliance. Four-way stop signs don't work. Yeah, no, the. The compliance is pretty abysmal if you get out there and measure it.

Speaker 2:

See, well, that'd be a whole different podcast, I'm sure. Yeah, the four-way stop sign, but that's why I to Promo here. I know that's one quite conversation I've had with my city engineer before, but but I think the other part of that so I wanted to directly answer the question, but I think the other piece on the government side is is moving into plain language. So really breaking down any of that technical fog. You know the people aren't gonna care, they're necessarily what piece of the pump broke, really Some bish, I Mean. I think there is something. I don't want to break it down too much like that, because I think there is an interest and a natural curiosity from people on what goes into providing their water. Like you know that we have wells, that they run through a treatment plan and kind of creating more of a open space to kind of educate there and what 25% of a capacity means. But I think in telling that story and in also sharing this information, it's kind of breaking down. You know very technical terms or terms that sound technical, like you know, invasive vegetation, or you know like what is that real buckthorn, yeah. Or you know, like I Guess like right of way or things like Blanking on some of the time in.

Speaker 1:

But yeah, no that's a great no idea what right of way was. I think I was two years into my engineering career before I finally pieced it.

Speaker 3:

I mean I'm exaggerating, but yeah, until I really was on the job, I didn't know what right of way meant that that you know and and as an aside, as a tangent you that is, one of the biggest struggles for any property owner is to Grasp this concept that I don't own my lawn all the way to the curb. That's not my property, you know. And so this whole concept of what is right away and where is it, and how it's right away, what's easements right, it's a complicated thing that we just take for granted after after some point.

Speaker 2:

So as as practitioners, I mean yeah, for granted well and you know if you're used to speaking with your colleagues or with you, know other folks and, like you know If we're having an engineering meeting and it's our city engineer, the county engineer and min dot, it's a different type of conversation, different level of Words that are used that mostly go over my head, but then it's. I guess even from a communication standpoint, just sometimes being in those conversations can help you understand what you're actually trying to communicate and the more you can kind of understand from like a professional level what we need to pull out and tell people. That's that's kind of the, the dance you play on saying, okay, here's all the information I need, because I'm not the, you know, the expert at this. So then how do I kind of take what I think, or or ask the question on what does this mean?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, so I'm we need to break down to well broken. Hope us use less water for a week. I mean, just yeah, not, whereas we always want to write more tech.

Speaker 3:

We do, we do, we are the ex we do, and there's a whole different. I mean, we're talking specifically about social media here. I think we're focusing in on that, but there's a whole nother Maybe another podcast for the whole nother topic of writing for newsletters and, yeah, and you know, newspaper articles and things like that. And this push and pull between trying to be somewhat technical but not too technical and I I would have a little I've had conflict in my History with with communication staff is like they would rewrite something and they would literally change the meaning of it because they thought they were, they were, you know, making it more clear to the general public, but they actually changed the meaning of the, of the topic or the paragraph and and so there's there's that a little bit of conflict. Yeah, you know when you're, when you're getting into something highly technical, but for social media, where we're trying to keep it short, you should try to not be real technical to begin with so, but it's important.

Speaker 2:

I'll say I just started to interrupt yeah, it's important to have that relationship. Then, yeah, so that you can go back and forth and say, like you know, I may not intend to change the meaning of what you wrote and I didn't know, I did so like that's what's nice, right, like exactly no, no, this word we actually have to use because it's important in the context of Coming back to us in the end, and then you can work around that yeah, so you manage, or you were involved in the production of a guide For.

Speaker 3:

So we have something. Minnesota here we have something called the local road research board, which is funded through a variety of sources. It's a great resource, it's a great research arm that produces it does a lot of research, produces a lot of guides and technical documents, and that for the engineering community and the public works community. But once you talk about that and what the outcome was and some of the you know Highlights some of the tips that are in there for using social media.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So the the plan itself, you know I was one of the 12 member panel which was made up of some city and and county engineers and then a lot of communication Personnel or communication managers with cities and counties, and then also some in dot representatives as well. So it was a 12 person team and you know we came together With the goal of you know how do we create some sort of guideline or some Reference that people who may not have the resources or the time to invest in, you know, becoming a communications professional or their city may not have one, and and really create a way to say like here's how you can do social media, because you probably should, yeah, and when you look at it, you see a lot of. I mean, you can go online and find any sort of list of 20 tips and tricks Probably YouTube video Probably or a hundred, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. No, we didn't make this one a YouTube video, unfortunately, but yeah, so what we? But what we didn't see was anything related specifically to public works projects or transportation projects. You know there's a lot of tips Generally how to you know expand your social media reach, but nothing in the sense of how do I do it for a road construction Project, or how do I even build something if I've never done it before? So the beauty of what we came up with and it was a great team effort. So you know, I just happened to talk about the most or the most or a lot, in the first meeting, which you may have already noticed by. Yeah, I've gotten that flavor, yeah, so I'm afraid of silence now. So then I got nominated as the, the technical chair, and this was my first time on one of these boards, so that maybe not didn't necessarily know what I was signing up for, but it was fun to kind of serve in that role. But definitely a team effort. And I think the best thing I would say with this is you can either start at Step one or tip one and go to tip four. You can go tip one to tip 20, or if you've already gone to the point where you're, you've Established your audience, you know you, you understand how to create ads, you can go over to tip 20, you know you can kind of start wherever you want and wherever you're comfortable with social media, which is kind of really what we wanted to do and we really wanted to actually show examples from local Towns, whether it's somewhere in the metro, like Plymouth, or somewhere outside, like New Alme or City of Nisawas in there.

Speaker 3:

Example from the city of Chaska in there too See. Yes, yes, older thing, yeah.

Speaker 2:

Well, sometimes they're just easy to find the ones that I have I readily available. But but it was actually fun just trying to look, just kind of picking random cities and scrolling to their feet Like Fergus Falls has a good one on a water main break, of showing the water kind of gushing out of there. So you know the main. You know, I think the main kind of points that people should take away from this, or the main points I would like to probably highlight, are you know, if you get like getting started Growing your followers, you know, knowing your audience, so kind of creating an avatar, kind of what we were talking about before, and then Understanding your bandwidth, you know there's a lot of good points in there about. You know, pick the social media Platforms that work for you and that work for your community and then you don't need to be on everything Beyond the ones that are important to your community. So those are kind of some of the main components, because I think if you look at the we did a survey at the beginning and if you look at the second page on there or third page, there's kind of some results on. You know what are the biggest challenges people face, yeah, and you know, if you look at that number one, sixty eight percent limited staff time and then 36 lack of staff knowledge. So when you look at those things and then also, I think was a not a fear, but receiving critical posts were the top three that came up there, and and what we wanted to do at these tips was to try to answer those three challenges in a way that makes everyone, or as many people as possible, feel comfortable doing some sort of social media.

Speaker 1:

So kind of just extracting what we've been talking about. It almost seems like start with Facebook for most communities and then consider moving on to YouTube or Instagram, and then staff time is just figuring out what you're gonna commit to and who's doing what. But then I was on my list as went right to the trolls and the negative comments, and I mean we're used to be in a public hearing or a city council meeting where you hear the bad stuff. You very few people come and say you're doing a great job and I love this project. I mean that just doesn't happen that often. So how do you deal with the negative comments where people have outsized kind of mouths online?

Speaker 2:

Oh, the trolls. That's a fun topic and I always like to start this on the positive side. That that should never be a reason not to post is to be afraid of getting negative from that. I would also say that a lot of times I look at it, it may be a critical comment. There are some comments that are just kind of trying to poke you and try to get you to go down a path that you may not want to go down, which then you don't have to respond to it. But for the most part, if they've even if it's critical, or they've got a negative attitude towards whatever you posted, they've taken the time to read it and they've also now taken the time to engage with it, which, if you break down social media in what you're really trying to accomplish, it's getting people to read it and getting engagement. So you've already accomplished two things. There you go I always try to start with that to say like they now understand what you are saying, or they've read what you're saying. They may not understand Right, so there may be an opportunity to further explain or provide more context, but I think it's important to engage. Social media is not a one-way street. It's the more you just put information out there and don't circle back to people that are engaging with it, you're gonna see less and less engagement, because it's important to know that you're still there even after you posted, to say, hey, that's a great question, thanks for the comment. Or I'll look into that information. Or sometimes, if it didn't make sense, it's okay to say, hey, yeah, sorry, that was a little confusing. Here's kind of what we really meant by that, because you are a person, they're a person, so there's a way to say that in a very human tone.

Speaker 3:

Is there any time where you wouldn't respond to a comment?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, there are times I can't think of anything specifically. I try more times than not to find a way to respond and it may have just been a negative comment that says this pedestrian tunnel is a tunnel to nowhere, and that's not even that negative, but add in a few other things. Yeah, yeah, yeah, like typical local government just doing dumb things or something, Right right, and then just kind of take it and take whatever the piece of it that you can address and say, well, this pedestrian tunnel was put in place because it's gonna be between these businesses and these businesses and it's a safer way to cross this road. So that was kind of our thought behind it. And then you don't really have to actually necessarily kind of address maybe some of the other parts of their comment. But you've now provided more information about something that will prevent or maybe allow others that see the first comment to see yours and say, oh no, that actually makes more sense Because you're not just talking to the person posting a comment, you're talking to the people that are also potentially gonna read that and then either buy into that or maybe form a different opinion because of that opinion.

Speaker 1:

So are you getting notifications on your phone? Are you looking once a day? Are you looking once a week? What is how real time are you with checking all the social media and being responsive?

Speaker 2:

It depends, and you get into a cadence the more you do it. So I mean again, I don't wanna scare like if you're a public works director out there and you're just diving into social media being like, oh my God, I have to be on my phone at 10 pm. I'm already on my phone at 10 pm cause people are telling me about trees being down or something or a dead raccoon. But so you get into a cadence of understanding what comment may need to be addressed a little bit sooner than others. Some may be able to wait till the next day to say you know, hey, I'll check on it. Or, you know, I think within 24 hours is kind of the guideline. I'd say was just probably within reason. But sometimes if I know it's gonna be a post that's gonna get a lot of attention and or negative attention, I'll kind of every 10 or so minutes refresh that and look at the comments and see how the reaction's going.

Speaker 1:

So are you thinking if you expect something to be controversial or have a negative spin to it, are you specifically posting early in the week so you have more time during the work week to let it dissipate? I would think posting something controversial on a Friday and letting things just balloon out of proportion over the weekend is probably not best practice.

Speaker 2:

No, no, and sometimes you really can't control that, unfortunately, depending on when something breaks or the resource down. But yeah, you try to, I mean you can. I mean I also try to post when I know people are gonna be online to, so like that's could be early in the morning, so like if you do it at like 7 am and then you kind of have the whole day to see how it's gonna go and you can kind of tell within the first hour, I'd say, of posting how it's being received. So because if it's something that people are really gonna latch onto, you can post at noon and people are gonna immediately start commenting, sharing, and you'll kind of figure that out. But yeah, if you're, especially if you're on a limited staff, you wanna make sure you try to do it in a time where you have time to.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I'm just thinking as a Public Works Director, City Engineer I do not have. I can't be refreshing my screen every 10 minutes. I will not be getting the heart of my paid job done if I'm doing that. But we have plenty of folks in our audience who don't have you, Kevin True To be monitoring all the social media, but at least carving out a moment today to refresh it.

Speaker 2:

Yes, Is the minimum probably, yeah, within 24 hours, I'd say to, kind of to, and in the smaller communities too, I think there's maybe. I mean you're still gonna have people that might get upset about things. Well, you will, I guess. Yeah, we know, yeah, we've all been, but I just I don't even remember where this was, but somewhere way outside the Metro posted this winner and said Kevin's doing his best he can to plow the streets. Today it was after a major snowstorm, so they just named that there's apparently only one plow driver maybe, or that's the what I assume from that. So just by posting that and saying it's Kevin, it's one guy out there doing this, so you can understand why we're maybe a little bit behind. You've humanized it Exactly. Yeah, but and so? And then at that point I know if you have the smaller staff, there's still probably one or two other people you can recruit to maybe help. So if that's the office manager then has more of a desk type job that they can say like, hey, I just posted something today. If you can just kind of every hour or so, keep an eye on it and let me know what you know, just give me a call if something comes up that seems to have taken things off the rails.

Speaker 1:

That may be the best practices. Most departments have some admins, yeah, to say you can respond to 80% of it. Here's kind of rules, but if something's really blown up, come grab me, yeah.

Speaker 2:

Or even just monitoring it. They don't need to necessarily respond if they're not even comfortable doing that.

Speaker 3:

How did you deal with it, roseville? Well, you know and it was actually one question, I wanted to ask Kevin about that before I get into that we always struggled with whether or not we should have our own social media channel. You know a public works channel on Twitter or whatever, and our police and fire had very active you know Facebook pages and Twitter pages and whatnot that were their own and they were managing it and that there were some. I think there might have been some conflict between the communication staff and the public safety staff on some of the posts and things like that, but that was one thing. We always struggled, or even like a project specific Twitter feed or Facebook page or something, but then we ended up. We did end up creating a separate snow plowing Twitter feed, because we our parking ordinance was that you couldn't park on the street if more than two inches of snow fell, and so we would send out a Twitter notification. We would have other things. People could subscribe to text messages and some other things like that, but we use Twitter as one way to just communicate to as many people as we could that, hey, we've hit that two inch mark or we expect to hit that two inch mark, don't park on the street overnight and we had, like my our street superintendent, who I mentioned in a previous podcast. A great guy, love him and he has a love hate relationship with Winter and Winter Embracements, but he was very passionate about it, like angrily passionate about it, but he's very passionate about it. But he wasn't really a technology guy and one of our street maintenance guys was like good technology and so he kind of managed the tweets and some of that and some of the notifications. But what's your experience on that, Like with separate channels within the city, and what would you recommend?

Speaker 2:

on that. Yeah, and I guess I'm. We'll start with. I'm just one person. But my recommended and I've actually because of going through this process with creating these tips and being able to talk to some of my colleagues and then some other folks with Bolton Mankin and other kind of construction communication companies was if you created a separate page, you have to now build that following. So the best way I've seen now moving forward is really kind of pushing, making sure we just leverage the audience we already have. So if you are posting about a construction project, people are going to probably go to your page anyway. So if you're just sharing something else, you know, is there a confusion? Then on, do I go to the public works page? Do I go to the cities page? And because social media you can post as much as you want. You know there's always good content that as a city's main page I can post for. And most people are going to go and say, if I'm looking for city of Chaska news, I'm going to search city of Chaska. They're not necessarily geared to say this. I know it's going to be a public works question.

Speaker 1:

So are you thinking of it like a hub and spoke kind of system of one hub that everything goes through but you can shoot people off to specific interests.

Speaker 2:

Well, not many spokes, I guess more of a hub. Okay, you're just leaving one channel. Well, you know, outside of police fire, you know they're different. You know people are going to look. You know Chaska police are going to look. You know Chaska fire, our parks and recreation also different. But for public works, because it is so tied into like city services, you know we get a lot of questions and stuff about trees being down and things through our channels. So it just makes more sense to there's not as clear separation between the two to then say you know, here's a page that just go there for us.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, no, I get it. That makes sense. So we're actually getting towards a and not a hot cast. Did you have any?

Speaker 1:

questions. No, I think we should get to kind of our standard questions, especially with the communications guys that are biased, right yeah.

Speaker 3:

So what we typically end our podcast with is we ask our guests about technology and how you've seen, you know, advancements in technology impact. You know the city operations are your position either positively or negatively and what would you say Like when, on either side either the positive side or negative side where have you seen technology make an impact for you?

Speaker 2:

Well, yeah, so you know all about technology, yeah, right, yeah, that's pretty much your phone. This can be everything now. Yeah, but I would say just specifically on a few points, is we just recently bought a drone. So like having a drone and the ability to kind of take footage of developments, we've seen a lot of interest, because we are a growing city, in when things are being built, what's going there, what is that? So being able to show more of progress and what that space looks like, it kind of gives us more opportunity to showcase different things in the city. Another thing that we've worked on in different capacities is with we share a GIS person with different cities, so the person works for the county and then she dilly-answered time through different cities, and so we've tried to do a little bit more with mapping, with interactive like ArcGIS mapping. One cool thing we've done we have a Santa parade we do every year and we worked together to create a Santa tracker. So where Santa was in the town you could go on the app and see a little Santa head, and we had like little deer tracks. The show already had already gone. You could see the Santa head kind of move through the town. It was pretty close to be accurate. And then we internally use that to show, okay, where was our timing on actually getting to these kind of viewing locations so that we can better plan for next year. That's cool, I love that. Yeah, that's great, that's been fun. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

What do you see on the horizon coming that you're excited about? How are things evolving?

Speaker 2:

Well, you know, I you know, with TikTok and with some of the more short form videos, I think is a big thing we're really focused on now and trying to get more into reaching the younger generation that way. We talked about AI a little bit. So you know, we're kind of dabbling in that a little bit just as far as learning kind of what it is and what to do with it. But I think the bigger things is just trying to figure out for us. How do we continue to leverage our position in different social media platforms?

Speaker 1:

Okay, Kind of closing out any final lessons learned with tech. Good bad experiences like wow, I really shouldn't have done that and everybody else should know you should not do that. Mmm, such a great made up this position, yeah.

Speaker 2:

You know, one thing I guess that can be tough is putting it down, and by that I mean the phone and like stepping away. So like just for you know, there's a lot of focus on, you know, personal well-being. I think sometimes the social media person might get forgotten about in that sense because it's, you know, it seems like it's just a platform, like it's just a generic message from the city. But you know, sometimes those comments you know can impact you to be like. You know, I am trying to help the community too. So I think sometimes you have to just kind of be able to step away and kind of take a step back from it. And the other thing I always try to do and this is kind of from my journalism background, but sometimes you also just have to, I mean the phrase is put the notebook down. In this case it'd be the phone. So if I'm going and I see maybe some of our public works guys patching a street, I don't always need to go over and say, hey, can I take a photo of you? Okay. Yeah, I don't always have to do that. Yeah, sometimes I just go over and just chat to say like, hey, how's it going today? You know, what do you guys have going on for the fourth of July? You know, what do you? What else are you doing today? What are you patching now? And then that just builds that rapport. So then, if you do want to come take a photo of them or take photos or just you kind of now, have those networks built out so that you don't have to be at every event, you don't have to be everywhere. You can text someone and say, hey, I think you're probably over there. Or they may text you and say, here's a picture.

Speaker 3:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, hey, we got a water main break over here. It's minus 30 degrees, yep. So it's going to be kind of fun to show, or not fun? I guess it'd be kind of worth it to show people that we do have to work outside in minus 30 sometimes. Yeah, awesome.

Speaker 1:

Great Thanks, kevin. This was fantastic and very informative and we'll definitely link to the 20 tips guide and the show notes and also Chaska's YouTube page. Yeah, yeah, spread the word.

Speaker 2:

We don't have any good dinosaur videos. Yeah, yeah, yes, yes, yeah.

Speaker 1:

Thanks. Mark yeah. And one last thing listener, before you go. Although we don't charge for the professional development hour you just received by listening to the podcast, the Public Works Nerds is not free If you've listened to more than one episode. The cost is that you tell at least one colleague about the podcast to help us grow our audience. Yeah,

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