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Communicating outside the box

Presented by Jessica Linthorne
in Communication

Sponsored by Saugeen Shores

The Town of Saugeen Shores is the fastest growing community in Bruce County and is ranked as one of the best places to live in Canada. If you’ve engaged with the town, you’ve likely heard this statement before.

Communications has taken centre stage in the community. We are experiencing significant growth and have made a commitment to engage and inform all stakeholders. The 2017 Corporate Communication Strategy has a clear goal to establish Saugeen Shores as a two-way communications organization, both internally and externally, by effectively engaging stakeholders to ensure a broader awareness and understanding of town programs, initiatives, and services – and to tell our story.

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Creative Communication Strategy

Saugeen Shores includes the communities of Port Elgin and Southampton, along the coast of Lake Huron in Bruce County, Ontario. With a population of approximately 14,000, the town is leading the way with strategic communication planning and implementation. The proactive, clear, and accessible approach has found solutions to challenges, with an outcome of engaged stakeholders.

The Shore Report podcast, hosted by two municipal staff, is a two-time national award-winning initiative. For less than $200 a year, the municipal podcast hosts guests on the show, including elected officials, local business owners, and major employers, while driving clear and direct messaging to the audience. The Shore Report has reached over 8,000 listens in 50 countries, and is compiling an oral history of the community.

The podcast isn’t the only outside-the-box communication effort undertaken by the town. Recently, an informative video series (white board instructional) has launched through the town’s YouTube channel. The video series introduces the community to a fictional character – R.O.S.S. (Resident of Saugeen Shores). “Ross” is on a journey to learn about municipal government. As an average ratepayer in Saugeen Shores, Ross doesn’t quite understand what happens in town hall and is determined to figure it out. Ross is engaged and is looking to be informed. The 2019 informative video series will focus on finances (e.g., Municipal Budget 101, Development Charges).

The Ross videos are experiencing higher than anticipated view rates and are receiving positive feedback from the community.

The communication strategy includes the revision of internal practices to streamline effort and break down silos (a common concern). Saugeen Shores is also advancing new, clear processes to support stakeholders. Because four of the seven objectives in the strategy are internal, however, the town recognizes it has room for improvement.

New Engagement Strategy

In addition to the podcast and video series, tactics include a recent website refresh, building a social media strategy, providing writing training for all staff, and developing a strategy to ensure consistent, timely, and clear expectations around community engagement.

The town is ready to define the “who, what, when, why, and how” when it comes to community engagement. Saugeen Shores is active in posting surveys and asking for comment and regularly experiences high participation rates from all stakeholders.

The early stages in developing the engagement strategy will involve consultation with elected officials, project managers, and external stakeholders. Consulting will provide a framework of expectations and encourage the design of engagement to fit the community. The strategy will include internal processes regarding who does what and will clearly define how the in-house communications experts can provide support.

Communication: Key to Success

Effective communication, including key message development, provides clarity and promotes engagement. Saugeen Shores is fortunate to have a thriving community; by implementing a few new outside-the-box tactics, Saugeen Shores is well on its way to becoming not just an informed community, but a highly engaged one as well.  MW

For more information on the Town of Saugeen Shores communication and engagement initiatives, please visit www.saugeenshores.ca.

as published in Municipal World, June 2019

Municipal World Insider and Executive Members: You might also be interested in Élisabeth Liston’s article: Residents as changemakers: MIS Civic Incubator offers new model of civic engagement. Note that you can now access the complete collection of past articles (and more) from your membership dashboard.

With a focus on building relationships and continuous learning, Jessica Linthorne successfully attracts businesses to the community and helps make existing local business even more successful. As Manager, Strategic Initiatives with the Town of Saugeen Shores, her portfolio includes economic development, strategic communication, and organizational effectiveness.

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