It’s a wrap. The City-County Communications and Marketing Association (3CMA) 2012 Annual Conference ended on September 7th after three days in Portland, Oregon. Attracting local government officials from across the nation, this conference aimed to help develop strategies for citizen engagement and support for community government initiatives. This year’s theme was “Brewing-Up Success in Local Government,” focusing on effectively communicating with citizens using “innovation, creativity and originality.” Unfortunately, we here at ArchiveSocial were not able to attend this conference. Nevertheless, we decided to live vicariously through Twitter using the hashtag #3CMAPortland to get a pulse on the conference. Undoubtedly, social media is an “innovative, creative, and original” tool for local government communications, so what better way to remotely experience the 3CMA 2012 Annual Conference?

Portland’s beauty

One commonly Tweeted theme during the conference was Portland itself. Many of the Tweets from the beginning of the 3CMA conference expressed just how impressive Portland was. Conference-goers’ Tweets included the following:

Telling a story, not statistics

But once inside and the sessions had started, the conversation turned to “Brewing-Up Success in Local Government.” First, Conference-goers took to Twitter to recap the importance of truly engaging the community. Tweets one audience member, “Great line at keynote. A list of facts is not a story.”

This sentiment indicates that cities are not just enumerations of demographic statistics, but living, breathing communities. Denizens form the lifeblood of these communities, but local governments need to remember that they need personality as well. Much of the conference highlighted that communicating effectively with citizens requires more than just annual budget reports or census publications. In fact, successful local governments interact with citizens on a human level, drafting a dialogue and story with its citizens. One avenue highlighted was developing a true social media presence. It is no longer enough to simply have a Facebook and Twitter account. Communicating with citizens requires government to use social media to tell a story about the ever-changing community and to really engage with citizens.

Take, for instance, the 3CMA’s Case-Study on the Lake Oswego Interceptor Sewer. This project involved installing a main sewer line through the middle of Oswego Lake, requiring the lake’s deepest drawdown ever. Certainly this was a controversial plan, and an effective communications strategy was crucial to its success.  As a result, besides creating a website and performing public outreach, the City of Lake Oswego also used Facebook and Twitter to interact and give updates to citizens. This gave the potentially-controversial project a public face and significant transparency.  Using pictures, updates, and a “Lake Level” gauge updated frequently, the public’s “cry never materialized.”

So, as the 3CMA Conference comes to a close on September 7th, local government officials will return with these communication strategies in mind. Along with memories of beautiful Portland, the themes of drafting a story with citizens as well as taking the next step with social media will continue to resonate. And although we here at ArchiveSocial could only experience this conference through #3CMAPortland, next year we hope to be the one’s writing the Tweets and contributing to the story.