Gilbert wins national award for using public communication to inspire change
Today, Results for America announced that Gilbert, Arizona’s digital government office, will receive the second Sharman Stein Award for Storytelling Changemakers. The award, which honors the memory of the founding communications director of What Works Cities, recognizes a municipal team or official who leverages the power of public communications to cultivate trust and collaboration between local government and residents.
The annual price is donated by Results for America, a partner of What Works Cities, a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative that helps cities use evidence and data to address their most pressing challenges.
“We are very proud to announce this award for the city of Gilbert today – Sharman’s birthday,” said Simone Brody, Executive Director of What Works Cities at Results for America. “This recognition honors her life by celebrating cities like Gilbert that exemplify how governments and residents can work together to build a better future for us all. ”
“The Sharman Stein Award recognizes cities that use public communication not only to share information, but also to build trust with residents and engage them to tackle common challenges,” said Michele Jolin, CEO and co-founder of Results for America. “Gilbert’s robust and innovative digital communications strategy has helped the city connect with residents, share data on government performance, and increase civic engagement. “
Stein’s belief in the power of storytelling to drive change was evident throughout his career. She spent decades working as a reporter for newspapers across the country before heading communications for city agencies and nonprofits in New York City, before moving to What Works Cities. Stein died of ovarian cancer in May 2018.
Gilbert’s Digital Government Office was selected as this year’s award winner, as the team embodies Stein’s call to cities to tell stories of progress to build trust and engage the public to actively engage in civic life, this which is especially important given the new challenges facing local leaders and residents as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The team’s many notable accomplishments include:
• Regular creation COVID-19 Update Videos with the mayor and city manager to ensure residents have immediate and accurate information to stay safe.
• Ensure that city hall has a relevant and engaging voice by creating the Digital state of the city, a film produced each year that replaces a more traditional talk about the state of the city, whose leadership usually comes from behind a podium.
• Found the Government goes digital podcast to help residents understand how Gilbert is transitioning communications from local government to non-traditional digital means.
• Launch Alexis, an avatar that helps residents explore data on Gilbert’s open data portal, including COVID-19 data, by highlighting specific stories and datasets. Thanks to Alex, the city increased civic engagement by leading public polls and posting follow-up stories to illustrate to residents how their feedback was used to make decisions.
• Execution of a strong communication strategy that covers the use of more than 30 social media channels with an audience of over 170,000 subscribers, a pioneering example of resident-centric communication in a city where the average age of residents is 32 years old.
• To create a Data content strategist role, formalizing the city’s culture of telling stories with data to maintain strong two-way engagement with residents.
• Share their knowledge and expertise with other cities working to create a culture of digital communication centered on residents. In 2018, Gilbert led a online seminar with What Works Cities to help other cities explore the unique and innovative ways cities can connect with residents through video and social media.
“Through storytelling, we have the ability to show how government works and engage our community. Amplifying our messages by using all of our outreach channels to tell meaningful stories impacts lives and builds trust in our government when our community needs it most. I’m so proud to be part of a team that is focused on just that, ”said Dana Berchman, Chief Digital Officer at Gilbert. “We had the pleasure of meeting and working with Sharman Stein. His love for storytelling and his passion for connecting government and community was so evident. She didn’t just want to hear about the work we were doing at Gilbert; she wanted to see it for herself, experience it and really understand it. We are touched and honored to receive this award on his behalf.
Gilbert’s Digital Government Office team members include:
• Dana Berchman, Chief Digital Officer
• Jessica Bautista, digital journalist
• Zara Bish, multimedia analyst
• Melissa Cannon, Data Content Strategist
• Brenda Carrasco, PIO of Police Digital Media and Marketing
• Jennifer Harrison, Deputy Director
• Eva Kirschbaum, digital marketing coordinator for parks and recreation
• Derek Konofalski, Data and Technology Analyst
• Lauren Oxford, digital communications strategist
• Kelsey Perry, Community Engagement Coordinator
• Kiley Phillips, Economic Development Marketing and Communications Administrator
• Elizabeth Rohe, digital journalist
• Jennifer Snyder, PIO Fire Digital Media & Marketing
The winners of the Sharman Stein Award for Storytelling Changemakers are selected according to whether or not they embody the communication philosophy championed by Stein; actively exploit the modes of communication that reach residents with information about the progress of their city; and help improve community confidence, understanding and / or engagement through their efforts. Last year, the City of Arlington (TX) communications office was the inaugural winner price.