Mt. Lebanon is moving forward with a plan to improve communication with local residents, business owners and property owners, including the municipality’s online presence.
“Municipal staff, the commission and even the consultant fully recognize that our current website is well past the end of its useful life, and one of the projects that was incorporated with this year’s budget is an overhaul and revamp of the municipal website,” assistant municipal manager Ian McMeans said at a recent Mt. Lebanon Commission discussion session.
He provided an update regarding the communications plan launched last year by commissioners, who designated making improvements to the process as one of their primary goals. They did so in part, McMeans explained, because of the impending change.
“We knew we were going to be revamping the website in 2020, so we wanted to have a good plan behind that to say, this is why we’re laying out the new website the way we are,” he said.
Overall, the plan addresses such aspects as determining the best methods of reaching members of the community and analyzing each of the current media used by the municipality, determining which means are effective and which need to be improved.
“The first sort of big public part of the process was a survey of residents,” McMeans said.
In addition to an online survey, residents also had another way to voice their opinions.
“A hard copy was mailed out, one copy to each household, at the end of October,” McMeans said.
According to the survey, its stated goal was to ensure “we are providing the information our residents want to receive and their preferred method of communication.”
Of the 3,484 responses received by the municipality, 53% were online and 47% hard copy, according to McMeans. He gave special thanks to staff member Micki Cantine, who “by hand, inputted all 1,600 hard-copy responses we got, and did it in a matter of weeks.”
The results have been incorporated as part of a comprehensive communications strategy under development by consultant Anna Adams-Sarthou. In June, the commission approved hiring her company, A.S. Comms, “at an amount not to exceed $60,000.”
One of the strategy’s objectives is “to best reach all members of the community in the manner they want to be reached and at the time they want to be reached,” according to the request for qualifications issued by the municipality.
McMeans reported Adams-Sarthou submitted a first draft to the core project team. Along with McMeans, others on the team are Laura Lilley, public information officer, and commissioners Craig Grella and Steve Silverman.
“Once she issues the final draft of the plan, we’ll share it with the commission as a whole, in case the commission has any other follow-up questions or input,” McMeans said.
Commissioner Andrew Flynn asked about the direction the plan is intended to take.
“Is it just, let’s focus on what we have and make it better?” he said. “Or is it, let’s think about how are we approaching communications holistically and saying, ‘Let’s imagine this from scratch?’”
Grella, the commission’s president, said the project’s focus was intended to avoid “looking at how we were doing things.”
“So, the way we looked at it from the start was how the residents want to be communicated with and by what methods, and then we back into how we do that internally and externally,” Grella said.
Commissioner Leeann Foster said she is looking forward to an updated approach for the municipal website.
“I think there’s a real opportunity to create a system where we could alleviate a lot of the communications sometimes that goes back and forth between the residents and the municipality on issues, problems and concerns,” she said.