Following a delay primarily attributable to COVID-19, Mt. Lebanon officials are resuming efforts to help keep residents better informed, and vice versa.
In 2019, the Mt. Lebanon Commission identified enhancements to municipal communications as a priority project, resulting in the hiring of a consultant to develop recommendations, in part through a community survey distributed toward the end of the year.
“Then COVID hit, and this whole process got put on hold,” assistant municipal manager Ian McMeans said.
Means and public information officer Laura Lilley provided an update on the communications plan during the commission’s discussion session Tuesday, focusing in part on some items for immediate implementation.
Among them is hiring an employee to fill a part-time content creator’s position in the public information office.
“We’ve had this position vacant for a while, but because of the pandemic, we had a hiring freeze in the municipality,” McMeans said. “It was previously part of the office when the study was happening. It was intended to be part of the office ongoing. The funding is included in the budget currently, so there’s no additional funding needed.”
Lilley said the position is capped at 29.5 hours per week and has communications-related duties that include “every manner of writing, multimedia, filming, editing. It’s basically a utility position.”
She and McMeans told commissioners a full complement to her office, which is responsible for publishing the 10-issues-annually Mt. Lebanon Magazine, would help with implementing steps toward enhancing communication with residents.
“We need to be timely with everything we do,” Lilley said. “We shouldn’t be finding out things from the community, because that kills any effort to be proactive. It’s gone at that point.”
Keeping current with various platforms available for communication should be another priority.
“We need to be on top of new trends and finding out where people want to hear about things before everybody else in the world is using them,” Lilley said.
Regarding what probably is the most commonly used platform, the municipal website is going through a redesign in an effort toward better navigation, and plans call for a consistent social-media branding for everything related to the municipality.
Also being taken into consideration is the ability for Mt. Lebanon residents to express their concerns, opinions and observations to municipal officials.
“We’re supposed to be having two-way conversations now,” Lilley said. “The days of pushing information out are over, and we are supposed to be customer service experts. Our customers are our residents. We don’t turn them away.”
Commissioners praised her office for exemplary navigation of the COVID-19 crisis, despite being short-staffed.
“We’ve basically been in crisis communication mode since March, so we’ve learned a lot of things during that time,” McMeans said. “But also, just looking around the community, we’ve been able to get the message out fairly steadily on what we need to communicate to our residents.”