hashtags and gladrags

Brock Weir’s May 6th piece on the long overdue review of the town’s communication review sums up well what I heard while attending council earlier this month to hear the discussion surrounding Clr. Thompson’s two motions. You can read it here: http://www.newspapers-online.com/auroran/?p=10619

At the beginning of last term Mayor Dawe and Clr. Thompson assured me in person that the change in Communication Manager role would result in a more professional execution of the town’s Communications. I commented on that in a post from 2013 here: https://wattstrending.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/in-communications-familiarity-breeds-apathy/

The fact that it took that entire council term and now 2 council motions to address the piss poor performance of this department over the past council term is insulting in and of itself and only serves to emphasize the overall absence of communication that is taking place.

That’s not to say that among its followers the Town’s Communications Department doesn’t have a die hard fan.

Introducing Jennifer Norris, a SMBP Student at the University of Waterloo.

In a post on the University of Waterloo’s wordpress site for their online Certificate in Social Media for Business Performance here: https://smbp.uwaterloo.ca/2014/11/town-of-aurora-is-mapping-its-success-with-social-media-metrics/ Norris claims that “The Town of Aurora is ahead of all its municipal peers in York Region when it comes to utilizing Social Media.”

Really? Let’s talk about that.

Norris references a 2012 Social Media Strategy document from the town of East Gwillimbury.

Why East Gwillimbury and not Aurora you ask?

Well that’s simple.

The Town of Aurora does not have said document.

Curious for a town that is supposedly “ahead of all its municipal peers in York Region”

Here is a link to East Gwillimbury’s document, crafted in 2012:
http://www.eastgwillimbury.ca/Assets/5+2015+Government/0.4+Publications/0.1+Town+Plans+and+Strategies/Social+Media+Strategy.pdf?method=1

The Town of Georgina’s Social Media Strategy can be found on page 21 of their Communication plan also drafted in 2012:
http://georgina.ca/PDF/2013-ads/2013-ToG-communications-plan.pdf

Markham’ Corporate Social Media Policy came before council back in 2012:
http://www2.markham.ca/markham/ccbs/indexfile/Agendas/2011/General/gc111017/Corporate%20Social%20Media%20Policy%20-%20October%2012.pdf

Phase one of Vaughan’s comprehensive 2013 Corporate Communications Strategy ends this year, it has several social media touch points, all of which are measurable. It can be read here:
http://www.vaughan.ca/council/minutes_agendas/Communications/WS%201022_13_C2.pdf

RichmondHill’s Communication Strategy approved also in 2012 included a clear implementation plan for social media components:
http://www.richmondhill.ca/documents/meetings/cow/10_15_2012_16_30/Item%2007.pdf

And although there is absolutely no evidence of the Town of Newmarket’s social media strategy when one searches their website we learn from the 3rd Municipal Communications workshop held back in April of 2011 that a Senior Communication Specialist and Downtown Community Liaison for the Town of Newmarket developed Newmarket’s social media strategy and led the implementation of the Town’s social media campaign.

So that’s what Aurora’s municipal peers in York Region have been up to, yet the only thing Aurora has to show is a Communications Policy with no mention of Social Media, and an outdated Crisis Communication Plan that led to significant communication fumbling during the snowstorm of 2014: https://wattstrending.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/please-stand-by/

Norris tells us that “At the Town of Aurora, Marketing and Social Media are an integrated strategy. There’s a message that is consistently delivered through all mediums; as a group of products and is ongoing.”

Bullshit.

Norris continues by saying “Although, traditional mediums are still used, the preferred method of communication is through social media.” To which I say double bullshit.

The town’s approach to social media is more of an after thought than a preferred method, and there is nothing consistent about how Aurora delivers its communications as evidenced recently in the complete and utter fumble in the communications over the Family Leisure Complex.

It’s pretty sad when even well after the launch of the newly renovated facility that the Town’s communication department couldn’t even be bothered to update their website with a new photograph:

Here’s the direct link to the page on the town’s site: http://www.aurora.ca/Thingstodo/Pages/Facilities%20and%20Rentals/Aurora-Family-Leisure-Complex.aspx

Under a completely unnecessary separate page focusing on the renovation here:
http://www.aurora.ca/Thingstodo/Pages/Facilities%20and%20Rentals/AFLC-Renovation.aspx the project updates referenced as an “ongoing dialog” terminate September 4th of 2014, yet the facility didn’t open officially until May of this year.

Yup, there is the good old Town of Aurora Communications department making sure that “taxpayers are fully engaged”.

WTF?

Where it gets tremendously insulting is the section that speaks to metrics.

The first measurement tool addressed is website traffic.

Norris points out that “Mike joined the Town of Aurora in 2012, and at that time The Town of Aurora website had 30,000 unique visits per month, and now there’s 45,000 unique visit per month.”

Okay, so what is this number telling us exactly?

Web analytic tools have matured significantly over the past 5 years and provide a far greater number of metrics than unique visits.
What sections of the website are being used the most/least? How much time is spent on specific pages, what are the bounce rates for certain pages? Where are viewers arriving from? and so on.

Norris add that the Town of Aurora has 1127 Likes on Facebook and over 3400 followers on twitter.

So, how has that growth been achieved? What levels of engagement are the town involved with on these channels?

Where are the examples of how they are utilized in an integrated strategy to consistently deliver a message?

Which of these 5 types of social media strategies is evident in the town’s use of social media:

I 100% agree with Norris’ statement that “Engaging in Social Media can be overwhelming for an organization at first.”

One only has to rewind to late 2010 (
https://wattstrending.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/its-like-high-school-all-over-again/ ) when the Town of Aurora strategy behind setting up their channels appears to be summed up in this cartoon:

The Town even started it’s own blog, then deleted it after a handful of poorly written posts that failed to engage the public.

I also agree that it is absolutely “important to know what the desired outcome is, develop policies, integrate the social media platform into your marketing strategy and maintain a consistent messaging and monitoring system. Once the strategy is in place, it is imperative that there are metrics in place to measure the success of the strategy.”

Something that clearly hasn’t happened in Aurora.

Inexcusable when you factor in the $600,000 budget and 4 full time staff that are in place only appear to accomplish a small fraction of what our municipal peers in York Region do. Some of them with far fewer resources.

When said department can’t even administer something as simple as a survey that returns meaningful responses, which I commented on here:
https://wattstrending.wordpress.com/2015/03/06/we-asked-100-people/ why would Auroran expect them to have a strategy for how they engage us in social media?

As for Ms. Norris’ take on the town’s communications It’s hard to take someone seriously whose own twitter feed seems to have stopped back in November and has a total of 4 followers :

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