Public Relations in Local Government: Transparency at It’s Best
As I walked through the doors of City Hall and was immediately propelled into a busy yet captivating environment, I instantly realized that this internship will be one unlike any other. Over the course of the week, I observed varying aspects of the city’s operations and learned much about governmental transparency by serving as a public relations, marketing, and media intern for the City of Columbia. Among a myriad of other tasks, my responsibilities for the week included publicizing the city-wide health initiative “The EFX500: A 500 Mile Community Challenge” and developing a database for acquired Freedom of Information (FOI) Requests.
The City of Columbia and EnduringFX are partnering to launch The EFX500, a community challenge to collectively walk or run 500 miles in support of building a healthier Columbia. EnduringFX is a Columbia-based company that aims to improve community fitness by transforming ordinary exercise into high-tech, interactive experiences. To publicize the community health initiative I executed a marketing and public relations plan that included a press release, website updates, blog postings, city newsletter articles, social media updates, videos, and public service announcements (PSAs) on the city’s television station.
The EFX500 is designed to provide meaningful data and community support for EnduringFX. The results will be published in a report that will help the company win the 2012 Sanofi Data Design Diabetes Innovation Challenge and use the $100,000 prize to permanently implement the technology at the Drew Wellness Center, a healthcare facility operated by the City of Columbia. I especially enjoyed partnering with EnduringFX to develop attractive prizes and incentives, while ensuring this initiative will attract new, long-standing members to the Drew Wellness Center. As I collaborated with the team to publicize an event that aims to improve the health lifestyles of Columbia residents, I proudly realized that by assisting EnduringFX in their publicity, I am assisting Columbia’s citizens. Through this campaign and competition, Columbia will be nationally recognized for its health-based programs and activities that promote healthy living among its residents and decrease life-threatening diabetes.
By leading this massive marketing campaign, I quickly understood the vitality and importance of public relations in local government. Without an active department that informs, explains, addresses, and communicates pertinent information to the public, the inner workings of the city are not transparent. In addition to providing information to a mass audience, we encourage transparency by addressing individual information requests and by completing FOI (freedom of information) Requests.
The City of Columbia currently tracks their FOI requests using a manual, handwritten system. To use a more effective and efficient method, I am creating an electronic system that will track the process and ensure all requests are answered within the required time period. The electronic system will consist of FOI numbers, requestor names, dates, and relevant departments so the users will be able to easily retrieve information as necessary.
As the week came to a close and I reflected on my many tasks and accomplishments, I became excited to see what the upcoming weeks will hold. I look forward to future weeks and keeping you informed about The EFX500, its progress, and my growth as a public servant within the City of Columbia.
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We should always make public relations as good as possible to have a strong and nice relationship with the public. –
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