The Golden Post Awards is the first awards program for U.S. state and local government social media efforts!
Nomination Deadline: Friday, Feb. 20, 2015
Public Voting: Feb. 26 – March 6, 2015
Finalists Announced: Thursday, March 12, 2015
Winners Named: GSMCON Event, Thursday, April 30, 2015
Oakland County Michigan - Social Media During Flood Emergency
On August 11, 2014 Oakland County along with surrounding communities were affected with a historic rainfall that resulted in a tremendous amount of flood damage and affected over 55,000 people. The Oakland County Health and Homeland Security Division lead the communications with affected citizens through social media in order to get out information quickly to a wide distribution. They coordinated social media messaging between multiple departments' accounts on Twitter and Facebook: Oakland County official (OakGov), Public Health, Homeland Security and the Executive Office primarily. Social Media Messaging followed Homeland Security's emergency preparedness plan, providing educational and assistance through three phases: the flood and initial response, safety precautions involved with clean up and trash removal afterwards, and then how to get assistance. Oakland County Social Media Emergency Timeline:
Flood and Initial Response Messaging (August 11, 2014-August 13, 2014): Safety during the flood, safety immediately after the flood, floodwater safety, restaurant safety, State of Emergency Declaration.
Flood Clean-Up Phase Messaging (August 14, 2014-September 4, 2014): Next steps or people affected by the flood: clean up and trash safety, set up of resources centers, assistance for clean-up for elderly and disabled, disposing hazardous waste.
Flood Assistance Phase Messaging (September 15, 2014-November 19, 2014): FEMA assistance, flood repair help, loans for repairs, help for businesses affected, deadlines for assistance.
Below are screen shots of all the social media messages sent from Oakland County during these three phases. Through Oakland County's quick response, thorough preparedness plan, resource centers, and communications strategy utilizing social media, the County was able to work with other local, state, and federal partners to help citizens through the flood, clean up, and ultimately receive the following assistance:
-58,845 Michigan residents in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne registered for federal disaster assistance
-More than $35.9 million has been approved for housing assistance, including rental assistance and home repair costs
-More than $11.1 million has been approved to cover other essential disaster-related needs, such as medical and dental expenses, lost personal possessions and child care
-More than $4.8 million in low-interest disaster loans for homeowners, renters, businesses and private nonprofit organizations has been approved by the U.S. Small Business Administration
-More than 100 disaster survivor assistance specialists are strategically positioned throughout the affected communities to explain the types of disaster assistance available
-1,159 residents have visited four disaster recovery centers in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties
-430 housing inspectors in the field have completed more than 41,005 inspections of damaged properties
-209 people have received rebuilding advice from mitigation specialists located at four home improvement big-box stores in the affected communities
Summit County Utah - Rockport Fire Social Media
On July 25, 2014, the greater Park City area experienced its second large fire in two years. Social Media was quickly deployed, with emergency alerts on the county website, a reverse 911, and an active Twitter and Facebook presence. The overall objective was to provide citizens with timely, accurate information about the fire from a reliable and unbiased source. The result of this emergency campaign: the public was consistently notified about the event and able to respond to evacuation orders; emergency personnel were better equipped to perform their respective jobs since the burden of public information was taken off their workload, and; media had information required to effectively report on the incident.
Snohomish County, Washington - SR530 Landslide Twitter
A Twitter handle was set up immediately following the deadly landslide that killed more than 40 people in Oso, Wash. in March 2014. The Joint Information Center (JIC) managing public information and outreach in the wake of the disaster used @snocounty to communicate important news, safety information, and relief/recovery updates. #SR530Slide quickly became the "go-to" source for official information, and tweets using the hashtag were re-tweeted thousands of times by residents and the media. The JIC also used two other Twitter handles, as well as Google+, to communicate between two command posts that were physically cut off from each other by the landslide. While Snohomish County, Wash. Emergency Management was in charge of the landslide response, public information officers and communications professionals from all over the Pacific Northwest pitched in to help manage the JIC and related communications duties, including the use of #SR530Slide to get immediate updates to the public.
Virtual Operations Support Teams (VOST) for #SMEM
I would like to nominate a number of local emergency managers and volunteers for their active involvement in the development and creation of Virtual Operation Support Teams (VOST). We began a volunteer work effort in 2011 to craft and develop teams of emergency managers and other supporters to help emergency management agencies monitor, disseminate, archive and curate social media content. These teams have actively worked exercises, real incidents and are staying on top of emerging technologies. Here is a list of the awesome founding members of the VOST concept and are people who have given so many hours of their time to get this capability off the ground and into the daily conversations of the SMEM Community:
Jeff Phillips (@losranchosem & @_jsphillips) for the creation of the VOST Concept
Caz Milligan (@caz_milligan) for taking the concept and training a TON of virtual team members in New Zealand and creating the VOST Basics training with Scott Reuter (@sct_r) who should also be credited for being an incredible VOST advocate and team member.
Marlita Reddy-Hjelmfelt (@theredelm) who has been a Team Leader for a number of Wildfire VOST teams for the US Forest Service
Joanna Lane (@joannalane) for maintaining the VOST website at her own expense on via her own volunteer time.
Patrice Cloutier (@patricecloutier) for his efforts to develop a nationwide team for Canada.
Pascal Schuback (@schuback) who has developed a number of websites and platforms for VOST teams.
Cheryl Bledsoe (@cherylble) for her administration of the VOST Leadership Coalition which has met monthly in a teleconference to debrief VOST activations and share best practices for the past 3 years.
HCDFRS Social Media for Emergencies
From the onset, we made a decision to use our social media presence as a way to share timely and accurate updates about emergency incidents that we respond to. Aside from ongoing tweets about department initiatives and such, our incident-related tweets run the gamut from weather related (National Weather Service warnings) to road closures to, fire, rescue, special operations and EMS incident related communications.
Austin Texas Police Department Social Media
All police departments across the country struggle with maintaining a positive image and providing transparent and consistent messaging, all while keeping their communities safe. Over the last several years, APD's Public Information Office (PIO) has made great strides in improving relationships with media outlets and being more transparent overall. APD serves a community of more than 800,000 people and has about 1,700 sworn police personnel. The department is always looking for ways to effectively communicate with citizens. While APD had established Twitter and Facebook pages, they were used rarely. APD PIO realized we were missing an opportunity to reach out to and engage with our community. In summer 2012, the PIO team made a concentrated effort to start using social media more. Austin's citizens, as well as the local media outlets, started following APD's posts almost immediately and social media interactions have increased significantly over the last two years. In 2012, APD only had 1,051 followers on twitter. Now, just three years later, APD has almost 35,000 followers. Perhaps the most effective use of social media that APD has found has been in trying to disseminate information in an emergency. In March 2014, tragedy struck SXSW when a drunk driver slammed through barricades and into the crowd, killing three people and injuring 22. APD immediately started pushing information out through Twitter and overnight, gained more than 3,000 twitter followers. The followers came to rely on @austin_police as a source of timely, relevant information. APD also started using the hash tag #whatthehelicopter when posting the activities of its helicopter, something that the very engaged Austin community was always curious about. The response to using #whatthehelicopter has been overwhelming. Citizens now tweet the department, using the hashtag, sometimes before we can even get the information out. APD's primary audience is the Austin community at large. Austin is a very diverse, rapidly growing community. Our citizens literally fall into every demographic, so finding effective ways to communicate to everyone is tough. Austin is also known for being one of the most ‰ÛÏwired‰Û� cities in the nation, so incorporating social media was a must. The secondary audience is local media outlets. APD PIO relies on our media partners to help us get the word out about a variety of public safety issues and the media has been very helpful in retweeting our messages and/or mentioning us when they tweet.
City of Austin Texas Social Media
Not everyone watches the news or monitors the City's website, but everyone is affected by severe weather. Floods are a major issue in Central Texas when it rains and we want to make sure that every citizen stays safe, so we have used Twitter to help get out the word. Some of the top tweets from these efforts are found in the supporting documentation. We wanted to make sure the information was accessible and easy to follow, so in addition to using the City account to disseminate information, we created a new Twitter account (@atxfloods), a website (atxfloods.com), and used hashtags (#atxfloods and #turnarounddontdrown) to make sure all of our citizens were informed. The selected tweets alone got almost 210,000 impressions, meaning that they were seen over two hundred thousand times across Twitter and were able to inform many residents who otherwise may not have known about the severe weather incidents.
City of Ankeny Iowa Snow Emergencies 2015
During the winter of 2015, the City of Ankeny has twice been forced to declare a Snow Emergency. During these Snow Emergencies, parking is banned on all City streets for a period of 48-hours. Despite leveraging local media in the past, we've historically had difficulty getting the word out to all residents when a Snow Emergency is in effect. This year, we decided to leverage our Facebook account with a two-pronged approach: First, we proactively ASKED residents to share the information about the Snow Emergency on their walls. Second, we invested $20 per update to boost the post beyond our typical reach. The results were phenomenal. Our first promoted Snow Emergency notification in January reached 32,624 people with 190 likes and 265 shares. Our second promoted Snow Emergency notification in February reached 28,272 people with 109 likes and 234 shares. This level of coverage is well beyond our average. The majority of our posts are not promoted. They typically reach about 1,000 people. Occasionally these posts gain traction and reach between 4,000 to 6,000 people. But before this year's Snow Emergencies, we had NEVER in 5 years seen a post reach over 25,000 people. We can't attribute it solely to the $20 boost, either. Of January's 32,624 people reached, only 8,656 were generated from the paid boost. In February, it was 7,824 people out of 28,272 - 26% and 27% respectively. Ankeny residents took our request to heart and were proactive about sharing our message on their walls. These two posts also received the highest number of shares among any post ever published to our page. Ankeny residents rely heavily on the City's Facebook page to stay informed. We attribute a great deal of the campaign's success on their perception of our Facebook page as a trusted information resource. Ultimately, we saw huge gains when it came to our number of page likes during these events. 201 new page likes were captured in January over the course of 3 days. 203 new page likes over the same period of time in February. Typically, we see about 100 new likes over the course of an ENTIRE MONTH. We went from 5,500 followers at the end of December 2014 to over 6,000 by the beginning of February. A gain of that amount has historically taken us 6 months or longer. As a result of these campaigns, our Police Department reported a DECREASE in the number of reports they received of vehicles parked on streets. Also, the number of ticketed vehicles was cut by 2/3rds. The Communications Department was publicly recognized by our City Council in February for our efforts to keep citizens informed and thanked us our diligence in answering inquiries from residents outside of normal work hours. Thanks to social media, we were able to spread our message further and faster than previously relied upon methods. Our success and minimal investment has resulted in the development of a new strategy deployment for future Snow Emergencies!
City of Dearborn Michigan - Flood of 2014 Social Media
On Aug. 11, 2014, Dearborn and surrounding areas were hit with a storm that dumped six inches of rain on the region. Freeways flooded and were shut down, buildings were damaged, and tens of thousands of homes experienced flooding and sewer backups. The impact was unexpected and unprecedented in an area that rarely experiences natural disasters. From dealing with flood claims to declaring a state of emergency to cleaning up trash from flooded homes to helping people apply for FEMA assistance, every department of the City of Dearborn was involved in the emergency plan to recover from this event. Our Public Information Department's job was to educate the public quickly and continuously about all city, state and federal recovery efforts. The messaging was complicated and constantly changing, and social media (specifically, Facebook and Twitter) was the first and one of the most integral parts of getting those messages out to the public. The night of the storm, as calls began to come in about sewer backups (effectively shutting down our dispatch), Facebook and Twitter were used immediately - as the storm was happening - to direct people to our existing flooding and sewer backup information. That initial Facebook post reached 47,000 people (our population is around 98,000) and received 4,500 interactions. Because the situation developed and evolved so quickly, there was no time to create a campaign or plan. Immediate action was often required to get messages out to the public, and social media was one of the primary ways we did this, connecting our 2,000 Facebook followers and 2,500 Twitter followers (and thousands of others who saw the posts) with our press releases, FEMA updates, and reminders about deadlines related to applying for claims, assistance, or volunteer help with cleanup. One of the biggest impacts of the storm was the large amount of trash cleared out from flooded homes (nearly 2,000 tons in total) that needed to be picked up. This created a very negative perception of the city - residents complained to us that cleanup wasn't happening fast enough, and we struggled to assure them that we were working as fast as we could with limited resources and overworked staff. Our Public Information staff worked with our Sanitation Division daily throughout the weeks of the cleanup effort to post daily updates on Facebook on cleanup progress, truck locations, as well as live photos of sanitation workers clearing out neighborhoods. This also included paid Facebook advertising regarding a cleanup blitz, during which our intention was to clear out ALL remaining flood-damaged items from city streets. Because we knew around 10,000 homes had been flooding, our goal was to reach 10,000 people. A two-day promotion did just that, reaching 10,752 people (organic and paid), and resulting in 591 likes, comments, clicks and shares. On the day of the blitz (Saturday, Aug. 30), Sanitation crew sent photos and live updates to Public Information staff, which were posted on the Facebook page throughout the day. The response was overwhelmingly positive, completely turning around the negative perception we had faced earlier in the month. That day, we reached nearly 6,000 people and received nearly 1,400 interactions on Facebook. The social media efforts also resulted in a 14 percent (10,411 hits) referral rate to our website during the time period we promoted flooding-related information. Normally, social media accounts for about 2-5 percent of our visits. This may not seem like a big deal to areas of the country that experience hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, but to Michigan, it was a huge public crisis that resulted in the federal government declaring a state of emergency in our region. This was also the first time the City of Dearborn had used social media during a crisis situation of this magnitude. We believe social media and our innovative use of it was instrumental to keeping the public informed, making them feel like they had an immediate option for questions and complaints, and maintaining a positive image of our progress.
Morris County New Jersey - MCUrgent
Morris County NJ was an early government adopter of social media. The most successful effort, however, has been MCUrgent (Morris County Urgent). Originally developed by the Office of Public Information in conjunction with the Office of Emergency Management, this collaborative emergency communication effort has been extremely successful. The goals were 1) to give citizens a single place to get updates about multi-jurisdictional emergencies; 2) to reach all demographics by sending a single message via social channels, web, and text message; and to have information available during power outages. MCUrgent meets all those goals and more. The unique thing about MCUrgent is its structure. Few emergencies stop at town borders. We created a system where municipalities are team members with the county. By using a social media dashboard, with one click, a message can go to a town's social channels and website, as well as the county's MCUrgent social channels. Widgets can broadcast MCUrgent on any website. MCUrgent launched on Facebook and Twitter just prior to Hurricane Earl in 2010. Social media, however, was not part of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). One year later, as Hurricane Irene approached NJ, the Office of Public Information was invited into the EOC to keep citizens informed online. The county typically has 50,000 "touches" to our information in any given week. During Hurricane Irene, there were 450,000 visits in six days. People desperate for information found MCUrgent and clung to it for accurate and timely information. One year later, Hurricane Sandy hit NJ, followed by a major Halloween snowstorm. Citizens flocked to MCUrgent for information. Social media is now totally integrated into our EOC. Morris County hosted a regional, multi-state Social Media exercise in late 2014 as a result of its successful efforts in this arena.
MCUrgent continues to grow steadily in spite of having absolutely no marketing budget. This is directly attributable to the Director of the Office of Emergency Management who "gets it". He fully supports having the Office of Public Information integrated with the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) during declared emergencies. He's the poster during minor emergencies, weather emergencies, and does so with personality. He engages the online community and they respond. He's posted haikus, memes, photos, questions as well as kudos and compliments to local emergency responders. The response to all this has been incredible. This is true public service as evidenced by the number of people who have said "Thank you" or called MCUrgent a "lifeline".
County of San Diego May 2014 Wildfires
Nine wildfires were burning simultaneously in San Diego County between May 13 and 17, 2014. The County of San Diego used a variety of ways to get emergency messages out to the public including our Twitter account. As we learned in previous emergencies, Twitter is the quickest way to deliver emergency messages and get those messages shared broadly. We sent out 243 tweets and 101 retweets during the fires. Our tweets delivered over 3.2 million impressions and were retweeted 4,707 times .
Wake County, North Carolina - @WakeGOV
The mission of Wake County's Communications Office is "We involve, inform and prepare the County, its employees and the public through Public Relations and Communications Services." One way to fulfill the mission is through social media. Wake County's corporate Twitter account @WakeGOV was created in 2009 as another tool to communicate to County residents, visitors, businesses and others. In the six years since its launch, it has gone from a communications tool for communicating to people to communicating with people. While most people view Twitter as one-way communication, it has truly become an interactive form of communication with the County. The account had a very corporate sounding voice initially. However, over the last two years, it has found its voice and is much more conversational. There are currently 15,000 followers of @WakeGOV. That is more than twice as many as this time last year. It is also more than larger counties such as Palm Beach County, Florida, and Hennepin County, Minnesota, which have much larger communication departments. Over the last month, we are averaging 37 new followers each day. Wake County sends multiple tweets daily to keep the interaction with followers ongoing and lively. People are informed about new jobs in the County, information on partnerships as well as events happening in the County, especially ones where the Commissioners are in attendance. While winter weather often skips Wake County, a year ago there were two major weather events. Twitter has been a very effective way of sending closing and delay information. The County itself does not close. It is up to the individual facilities as to whether they should open. With a number of libraries, parks and offices, it was important to quickly inform everyone the status of each facility. More importantly, during a serious storm it quickly gave residents information on emergency shelters, driving tips and information they could use if they lost electricity. With a smartphone, residents could easily check their Twitter account even if they lost electricity. Outside of weather events, there are other uses for Twitter in which to keep residents informed. While the regular meetings of the Board of Commissioners air on cable television stations in the County and online, their annual retreat and monthly work sessions do not. The County live tweets these events so residents can stay informed. Without this, there is no way for those who are unable to attend to readily know what is happening as not all of these sessions are covered by the media and the minutes are not distributed immediately. People find this valuable with the posts during meetings usually getting retweeted. Quality is often more important than quantity with social media. @WakeGOV has a lot of interactions: questions, direct messages and mentions. People are not just clicking to follow the county but are paying attention and wanting to interact. During last year's storm, many people retweeted and favorited @WakeGOV tweets related to closings and delays. We would tweet weather related announcements as soon as it would get them but would often get questions asking if a certain facility was open. We would also respond to questions related to other organizations such as the school system, state government agencies and trash collection to let them know how they could find that information. Residents would also connect for non-storm related issues such as asking questions or giving their opinions on hot button policy issues such as transit and on job openings. While people often go on Twitter to vent, the County does get positive comments and mentions including one user who thanked the county for the way it provides restaurant inspection information.
Philadelphia OEM - Ready Philadelphia
The City of Philadelphia's Office of Emergency Management's social media campaign works to prepare citizens for emergencies, keep citizens informed during emergencies and help them recover from emergencies. Through their #ReadyTip of the Week, the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management uses blog posts, pictures, infographics, and YouTube videos to illustrate important preparedness steps. They address emergencies preparedness topics throughout the year. For instance: how to evacuate, what emergency supplies every home should have, how to prepare for a hurricane, 15 Essentials for Winter Roadside Emergencies, and barbeque fire safety for the Fourth of July. When an emergency happens in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management' social media feeds provide up to date information around the clock. The most recent snow emergency saw thousands of shared posts and new followers. Prior to the storm, they posted safety tips and information on how to prepare. They live tweeted and provided video of the Mayor's Snow Emergency press briefings. News agencies and the public interacted with their social media accounts seeking information and assistance. The Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management's social media outlets have become the place where citizens can get the information they need before, during and after an emergency.
State of Massachusetts #MAsnow Campaign
The state of Massachusetts, led by #MassIT's social media strategist, Tim Treacy, achieved over 150M timeline deliveries, and a reach of 26M for their use of #MAsnow during the blizzards of 2015. Information was coordinated under the hashtag #MAsnow and published to public to help keep them updated in real-time.
Village of Oak Park Illinois - February Blizzard Campaign
A blizzard hit the Chicago area on Feb. 1, quickly becoming the fifth largest winter storm in the city's history. In its aftermath, the Village of Oak Park struggled to dig out, with 19 inches of snow on the ground and drifts as high as several feet. The Village's Facebook and Twitter accounts became important conduits for passing along information, gathering reports and sympathizing with frustrated residents.
City of Boston - Always Available
The City of Boston is always available on social, whether it be the main handle on twitter of NotifyBoston all the way to the unsuspecting Archeology Department Boston's agencies are there for constituents. In my opinion, the City of Boston is the most social media savvy city in America.
State of Hawaii - Puna lava flow
A new lava "finger" has been winding toward a previously lava-less region of the Big Island, Hawaii. It has engulfed one home and is currently in an on-again, off-again path toward a sparsely populated area, marketplace, school, etc. Various preparedness activities are in place, however, the uncertainty of the lava's upcoming activity has everyone on high alert.
City of Philadelphia - Philly311
During Hurricane Sandy (a hurricane that affected 24 states, and cost the U.S a total of $65 billion in damages) Philly311's (The City of Philadelphia's non-emergency call center) twitter and Facebook became the top source of real information for citizens . Philly311's social media platforms were crucial in handling Hurricane Sandy and helped extended the City's reach. Philly311's objective was simple, but important during a time when public transportation was shut down, when the Philadelphia International airport suspended flights, and all major highways were closed during. Philly311's goal and strategy was to be there for the citizens of Philadelphia, to provide pertinent and accurate information, and address citizen concerns. As a result of Philly311's remarkable responsiveness during Hurricane Sandy, followers nearly doubled, demonstrating how citizens were collecting information, and connecting with the City of Philadelphia.
City of Napa, CA - NapaQuake
The City of Napa provided important information via Twitter to the public after the NapaQuake in August 2014.
City of Wichita KS - Plane Crash Social Media Response
This application highlights the power of teamwork as multiple City of Wichita departments partnered to provide the latest information to local, national and international media and the public after a plane struck the FlightSafety Cessna Learning Center North building on Oct. 30, 2014 (which occurred on the Wichita Eisenhower National Airport grounds). This crash left four people dead and injured five others. The information shared through City of Wichita social media channels served many purposes. It alerted family members about how they could learn more about their relatives who were believed to be inside the building; it provided a way for investigators to seek additional information about the crash; it informed travelers who were scheduled to use the airport that day; it notified parents whose children were at a nearby daycare on airport grounds; it educated the public about road closures in the area and it provided updates about when media briefings would occur. The City's social media coverage was also mentioned by media outlets such as CNN.