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Erin O'Hoski: Focusing community stories to drive strategic planning

Erin O’Hoski has spent some 16 years in the municipal sector. In that time, she has learned a lot about communicating the importance of strategic plans. But, she also knows how to ensure communities maintain momentum after the creation of such plans.

O’Hoski, principal at Boulevard Strategy Group, discussed the many challenges communities face around strategic planning when she sat down with Municipal World CEO Susan Gardner at the Ontario Municipal Administrators Association 2019 Spring Workshop, at Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Emphasizing the Importance of the Strategic Plan

“Your strategic plan is more than just a document,” she said. “Of course, it’s hugely important that your strategic plan is helping your municipality be more efficient and effective and helping the organization run smoothly.

Undertaking a strategic plan, O’Hoski said, is essential for communities. The effort, she adds, often capitalizes on the community engagement council members have undertaken during their election campaigns. And while she describes that accomplishment as “a great news story,” she is quick to add it is important municipalities can keep the momentum going afterward.

One of the keys to do that, O’Hoski explains in the video, is for the municipality to take its strategic plan and turn it into a story. This, she adds, allows council to convince their three general audiences – their employees, their citizens, and people outside the community – they are serious about the direction the municipality is headed in.

Metrics, Employee Engagement Establish Credibility

The strategic plan, she added, also needs to be backed up with solid evidence.

“Metrics are important for two reasons. Number one, the more you know about your audience, the more you can tailor your story to meet their needs,” she said. “The second thing is using data and metrics for proof points for the stories you are telling. It’s fine to say your community is innovative … but make sure the audience knows you are serious. And, you have credible proof points to back up what you’re saying.”

Another key, O’Hoski said, is for the municipality to ensure employee engagement is taken seriously. Engaged employees who understand the strategic plan, she adds, will establish credibility for the organization. “There is no better advocate for your community than the people who work there.”  MW

✯ Municipal World Insider and Executive Members: You might also be interested in the article: Creating a pathway to strong intermunicipal collaboration. Note that you can now access the complete collection of past articles (and more) from your membership dashboard.

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