April 22, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

City asks neighborhoods: How do you get information?

9 min read
After a "staggering" 25 percent of city residents answered "I don't know" to survey questions, city staff asked neighborhood leaders how they get information about the city.

A city communications director met with neighborhood leaders May 23 to ask: How do you get information about the city?

[00:00:07] Cambra Ward Jacobson (City of Eugene): My name is Cambra Ward Jacobson, and I’m the acting communications director in the city manager’s office at the City of Eugene. Part of what our job is to do, is to educate and inform the community on what’s going on in the city of Eugene.

[00:00:22] John Q: Cambra told about last year’s community survey.

[00:00:25] Cambra Ward Jacobson (City of Eugene): There was a question about how much do you know about a certain topic, and the city council really focused on the fact that it was about 25% of those people that said, I don’t know. Whether or not they don’t know the answer to something or they don’t know that, whether they care about something, the concern was, how can we educate and inform people better?

[00:00:46] John Q: Here are those comments from the City Council in September 2022:

[00:00:52] Councilor Alan Zelenka (September 2022): In some cases we’re a national leader, in homelessness services, but people don’t know that. I think one of the things I walk away from this survey data is: We’re not telling our story well. I mean, just the high ‘don’t-know’ percentage is just staggering.

[00:01:11] Councilor Randy Groves (September 2022): I agree. We’ve got to find a better way to get our word out there. And I don’t know what the right way to do that anymore is. Obviously our local media has changed quite a bit, but I continually feel like we’re surprising people and that’s not a good position to be in. So whatever we can do, in fact, I almost think that should be a strategy of its own: How do we better engage the community.

[00:01:33] John Q: At the NLC in May:

[00:01:37] Cambra Ward Jacobson (City of Eugene): Our public information team, fondly known as PIT, the PIT team, is basically there to help educate and inform the public on what’s going on in the city.

[00:01:49] A number of PIT members, their backgrounds are in traditional media, and we all know that things are, things are becoming far more diluted with traditional media. There used to be the Register-Guard. There still is, but it’s not the one platform that people go to to get their information.

[00:02:07] There’s local TV, there’s radio, but a lot of people are receiving their information via social media.

[00:02:13] I don’t know how many of you have signed up for our platform called Engage Eugene. Many of our departments use that. We put projects and surveys on Engage Eugene. We have over, I think it’s close to 10,000 people that are registered with the site.

[00:02:28] So that’s one way to engage. We also have a number of community engagement events throughout the city that each department helps plan and works with the Office of Equity and Community Engagement.

[00:02:39] We also have surveys. The PIT team sends out media releases. We do interviews on traditional media. We send out PSA information, social media posts on our website, which is (I think) 1,500 pages, and then we also have our public meetings and Metro Television.

[00:02:57] And then the neighborhood newsletter and then newsletters that go out from different departments to help keep the community informed and engaged.

[00:03:06] I thought this would be a great way for us to pick your brain on how you receive information from the city: what you view, read, or listen from local media, if you still use local media. Do you use social media? And what different platforms?

[00:03:23] Ted Coopman (Jefferson Westside): What I do is, I sign up for, I’ve got it signed up for a bunch of listservs that I’ll feed into the same account. And so find out about those things and try to encourage people to sign up for listservs as well. But then what we do is we aggregate those and then we put ’em out via our e-news.

[00:03:40] And then, so we’ve been trying to grow our our e-news base as far as doing the outreach, but as media is a—I’m a retired academic and media’s my area. So really what you need to do is, you need is because of the current environment is that basically you need to be using all platforms. You need to get Hootsuite or similar platforms that allow you to integrate across basically all those different platforms.

[00:04:06] And actually, if I could make a pitch, that would be a very convenient thing for the city to pay for, for neighborhood associations, is to have that kind of a platform because it would really facilitate using all those different platforms in a very efficient manner.

[00:04:23] It’s not that expensive. It’s less than what a newsletter would cost, like a MailChimp or something like that. In most cases you’d have to see. But it’s really the best way to do it.

[00:04:35] Chandra Paetsch (Churchill Area Neighbors): My day job is an organizer and we face similar challenges in reaching people. You have to cast a wide net over as many platforms as you can, but then, like, making the information that they receive that at that point something that people interact with and is personally beneficial.

[00:04:57] For example, for myself the piece of city information that I regularly engage with is the library newsletter, because I have a kiddo and so I need to know when story times are. So like making sure that people have access to the information that is relevant to them keeps them engaged, is what I have found.

[00:05:20] John Q: Seconding that notion:

[00:05:23] Cambra Ward Jacobson (City of Eugene): My background is in television broadcasting, behind the scenes, and part of it is really trying to identify what people are interested in. A lot of people won’t be interested until they know what the benefit is or until they know how it affects their their daily life. And so trying to identify that is super important for us.

[00:05:47] Rene Kane (Jefferson Westside): I think I’m on between 15 and 20 of the notification and Cindy’s community bulletin. I also get Mayor Vinis’s blog, I guess you’d call it, but her emails. The Whole Community News is helpful.

[00:06:04] Ted Coopman: I want to make a pitch for KLCC, our NPR station, they’re in the process of ramping up their journalism program and shoveling more money. So giving some money, and I think the Register-Guard is absent. Somebody buying it or going to a nonprofit is a lost cause. It’s just a, I mean, it’s a major tragedy. It’s really had a very negative effect on politics and the city. It really is just a major tragedy being replicated across the United States by these rapacious venture capital folks. I wish them ill for what they’ve done.

[00:06:38] But KLCC, I think that if the city worked a little bit more with KLCC and maybe to develop some programming, that would be my suggestion as far as outreach and information. Those are the movers and shakers, are the ones that listen to NPR.

[00:06:52] John Q: Ted recommended offering a ‘Monday Memo.’

[00:06:56] Ted Coopman: A university that I worked for had a ‘Monday Memo.’ And if you wanted a quick gloss of everything that’s going on—the main things you need to be concerned about, opportunities for interaction—it comes out every Monday and that’s it. It’s not like a massive Sunday New York Times, but it was just someone would aggregate that information and that way you can highlight certain things that are going on.

[00:07:18] That’d be like going to the KLCC website or their, or I’m not going to say the Register-Guard, let’s say Whole Community News or something like that. We can just go to it and it’s there, and you can get a quick overview of what’s going on. ‘Cause ultimately the problem, especially with the conditions in the press locally, is that people do not know what’s going on. It really is difficult for them to figure out exactly what is happening.

[00:07:42] Sandra Bishop (Jefferson Westside cochair): This is Sandra Bishop. This relates to what Ted just said about the difficulty of finding out what’s going on at the city or finding information. There’s a great model for what he’s talking about, it’s called E-clips and it’s put out weekly by the state library.

[00:08:01] They would cut out articles from all around the state related to what’s going on in the legislature. Then they would photocopy it. Now they do it electronically and it’s brilliant. If the city could do a short version of that, that would be so helpful.

[00:08:16] John Q: The conversation continued with questions from John Faville.

[00:08:20] John Faville (Northeast Neighbors): We have the OECE (Office of Equity and Community Engagement) report… And we will have Fabio and I want to say something about this, which is that in the mayor’s ‘State of the City’ speech, she plugged the new outreach process. And I was in a meeting with her last week where she brought it up again and just reaffirmed how important it is to her.

[00:08:40] And so, you know, Fabio is managing this process and I want to put him on the spot and ask him: What’s new and different? What will we see that’s new and different, and where do we fit in?

[00:08:53] Fabio Andrade (OECE): Thanks, John. And thanks everyone. Nice to see you again…

[00:08:57] Because our office will be involved in all planning process from early on, from the early stage of planning for community engagement, we will have a way to make sure that we can include neighborhood associations in everything that they should have been included and or offer them an opportunity to participate if it’s something that has just been made available to the entire community.

[00:09:21] So we can expect better communications on what is happening at the city, and you can expect to be informed as soon as possible of whatever our office is being informed of that will be available for community engagement.

[00:09:33] John Q: Later in the meeting with a question about Climate Friendly and Equitable Communities (CFEC):

[00:09:39] John Faville (Northeast Neighbors): And I’m going to say this: As we went through House Bill 2001, there was a feeling of lack of transparency about who was invited to the table and who wasn’t. And I’m just wondering how transparent it will be.

[00:09:56] Fabio Andrade (OECE): …I can assure you that associations will be involved in that process as soon as we are ready to start engaging with any other groups in the community.

[00:10:05] John Q: Fabio said the city hopes to offer more support for neighborhoods.

[00:10:09] Fabio Andrade (OECE): We want to offer neighborhood association technical assistance with their websites, communications, and newsletters.

[00:10:16] And one of the features that I asked the team to investigate is using website platforms that can integrate with social media. So what Ted was mentioning by using a separate software, some website engines already have that built in. So you can make that integration when you post something in your website that goes automatically through your social media channels.

[00:10:37] And that’s something that we have been exploring if there is a nonprofit or a local company that could offer that direct assistance to neighborhoods.

[00:10:48] Jon Belcher (River Road): As a neighborhood leader who tries to keep a webpage up to date about important links that are going on in the city, it’s really frustrating that they seem to change on a, not a monthly basis, but certainly they don’t last long. I would encourage you to try to have some level of certainty to the links on the city webpage.

[00:11:11] Dennis Hebert (Southeast Neighbors): So say we got a neighbor that’s having a, well, let’s just say a situation, and they seem to be getting the runaround from the city. They’ve gone to several different departments and they’ve been told several different things and the likes of that.

[00:11:27] Is that something that we could talk to someone in your department about who might be the person or department to reference them to?

[00:11:36] Fabio Andrade (OECE): Yes, we will continue being available to talk to any board member.  That has been a tradition in this office in its many iterations that sometimes people don’t know where to go, so they end up coming to talk to us.

[00:11:50] We can’t promise to have the solution, but we are available to hear and do our best to connect them with the right resources.

[00:11:57] John Q: In a changing media ecosystem, the city looks for new ways to connect with residents.

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