Engaging Employees, Strengthening Community, and Building Trust through Improved Communications
City: Tracy, California
Reporting to: Director of Innovation and Technology
The Tracy City Council is overhauling its communications strategy to build more trust, transparency, and community engagement. Tracy’s population is growing rapidly. Over the last 30 years, the population has nearly tripled from 30,000 to just under 100,000 today. To accommodate this growth, the Council has expanded the city’s employee base, with a focus on hiring for technical competencies in engineering, planning, and finance. However, the city’s internal and external communications strategies have not kept pace with the increased need to share information efficiently among city staff, as well as between City Hall and residents. A lack of strategic innovation, staffing, and late adoption of digital tools have resulted in a communications system that is outdated, ineffective, and inefficient. In addition, poor transparency has resulted in a disengaged local community that feels uninformed, as well as a municipal culture of division, frustration, and low employee morale. Clear communications channels are particularly important given Tracy’s governance structure. As opposed to a “strong-mayor” system in which an elected mayor exercises administrative authority over city departments and City Council, Tracy operates a “Council-Manager” system in which an elected council of five members (including the mayor) appoints a city manager who oversees the day-to-day operations of the city’s departments. The city will soon welcome a new city manager and fill several key leadership positions after longstanding vacancies, and the need to develop a more robust communications strategy is urgent.
In 2021, the city council adopted a short-term, multi-year (2021-2023) Strategic Priorities plan, which spans four municipal pillars: governance, economic development, public safety, and quality of life. The initiative to revamp the city’s communications strategy falls under goals for improving community outreach and engagement by leveraging new technological solutions. However, despite ambitions to have accomplished this goal in 2023, city officials have not completed a formal assessment of current communications approaches and channels. The fellowship will provide a much-needed catalyst to evaluate key data and inform program implementation and design. The fellow, working together with the Director of Innovation and Technology, will connect data analysis, program strategy, and stakeholder input to answer the following key questions:
What type of information is the city pushing out?
What type of information do staff, city council, and the community want?
What channels is the city using to share information (e.g., social media, print media)? What is effective/not effective?
How do employees, city council members, and residents get information regarding the City of Tracy?
How would they like to receive information?
Who is the city reaching and not reaching? Is the city reaching missing subpopulations and disadvantaged members of the community?
What subpopulations exist and what are the barriers to delivering information to them?
What are solutions to create a more inclusive community and transparent government?
A successful fellowship will result in an initial assessment of the current state of internal and external communications and a workable/implementable plan. The intended outcome of this project would be to increase efficiency and transparency of the work being done by employees and the elected officials of the City of Tracy.
What You’ll Do
To answer the above questions, the fellow will engage key stakeholders including City Hall employees, City Council members, Chamber of Commerce representatives, residents, local businesses, members of the development community. Through their engagement and research, they will provide key inputs to a program to increase efficiency and transparency in city communications.
Key Deliverables Include:
- Internal and external communications audit, including:
- Assessment of information types.
- Outline of internal and external communications channels, as well as owned and earned media.
- Key stakeholder interviews/surveys to assess how they get city information and what type of information they want and how they would prefer to receive this information.
- Interviews with city council members, Chamber of Commerce representatives, community partners, employees at varying levels of the organization, and community members.
- Gap analysis mapping current communications methods against employee, city council, and public needs.
- Recommendations for improvement and analysis and an implementation plan for improved communications.
- Presentation of recommendations for improving the quality of information output and impact to key stakeholders, the city manager, city council, and the Director of Innovation and Technology.
What You’ll Bring
The fellow will be expected to possess the following skills:
- Strong stakeholder engagement and communications skills
- Qualitative Interviewing and Analysis
- Data Analysis
- Mapping (GIS)
- Spanish Language Fluency (preferred)