Pandemic questions? Just ask Tigard
While many city social media campaigns have devoted extensive coverage to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tigard has gone the extra mile, engaging the community on Twitter (and Facebook accounts as well) with countless helpful and proactive tips all day long.
Tigard's social media accounts and website have also answered more esoteric questions, such as whether Oregon rest areas are still open (yes) and is it OK to walk a dog in a city park during Gov. Kate Brown's "stay at home" directive (also yes, but play areas are off-limits).
The man behind Tigard's social media campaign is Kent Wyatt, the city's communications director, who started both the city's Twitter and Facebook accounts back in 2011.
Wyatt said he's found that Tigardians — especially during time of emergencies — look to the city to discern fact from fiction. That's accomplished, he said, by talking in an authentic voice, along with being clear and concise and avoiding jargon.
Since the pandemic began, Wyatt said the city has done both morning and afternoon posts on its Twitter account, keeping it simple and eye-catching with bullet points and emojis. They continue to update sites all day long.
Lately, Wyatt said since there have been drop-offs for such things needed requests such as blood, the city's social media pages have gotten the word out, helping to fill spots in a local American Red Cross blood drive.
"We're in public service to make a difference and like this is our time to do that," said Wyatt. "I mean, that's why a lot of us are in these roles and the city doesn't look at it as 'we the city;' we look at it as we're just part of this community, and how do we connect those dots."
He noted that many of the posts are in Spanish as well.
Wyatt said most of the questions answered on the city's social media pages originate from residents, but they are not the typical questions he expected related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"They want to know if they can get their laundry done like at a laundromat. Like, is that a core city service for me to respond to? … Probably not, but it means a lot to that person," said Wyatt. "I think it means a lot to know that their city is there, and it's something I can easily answer, so why wouldn't we?"
One question that Wyatt was able to answer came from a daily briefing on rumor control, debunking the notion that Oregon rest areas were open but bathroom doors were locked. Not true, he confirmed.
In the past, the city has even added some levity when getting the word out about a serious situation. Wyatt recalled one snowstorm several years ago during which the city asked residents to share their photos and stories, even reposting a blurb about a couple who got engaged in a parking lot during the event.
Despite the fact that the current situation is much more serious than a snowstorm, Wyatt said the city has found time to remind Tigard residents that Monday was National Puppy Day, and on Tuesday, he reposted a KGW story on "Why People Love Tigard."
"It also helps to defuse some of the negative energy that's sometimes on social media," he pointed out.
That push to put a human face on city government has long been a goal for Wyatt. A decade ago, both he and his wife, Kirsten, founded Engaging Local Government Leaders. The group's goals are to humanize government, embrace technology and social media, promote diversity and — last but not least — have fun doing it.
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