Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Are town officials using blogs?

Yes, yes and yes. In small towns and large, mayors, city managers, council members and others are using blogs to inform, inspire and welcome. Eden Prairie City (MN) Manager Scott Neal's blog motto is "Putting a face on the faceless bureaucrat." Sound like a good idea?

Here is a partial list of official blogs and related information -

The Official Blog of Fayetteville Mayor, Dan Coody

Eden Prairie City (MN) Manager Scott Neal and Fire Chief George Esbensen communicate with the public several times a week and write about what is on their minds.

Official Blog site for the City of Laurel, Maryland focuses on "providing timely and straight (no spin) updates by the City on important issues/concerns, community and special events, City programs and other information that is helpful to your community."

"Lakeland Highlights" (Tennessee) is City Manager Robert Wherry's blog. The town's website solicits "your opinion on consolidation & charter changes" and has links to its numerous blogs which post agendas and minutes of commission meetings.

On Lebanon, New Hampshire's City Manager's Blog, Gregg Mandsager thanks visitors for comments and writes, "Welcome! Please let me know what you see going on around town or what you would like to learn more about."

Town of Parker, Colorado - "Welcome to the Town of Parker Colorado Blog. Find events, concerts, sports information, local entertainment,add restaurant or movie reviews, popular Parker links, and discuss Parker Issues."

Check out the Town Manager's blog of Winchester, Massachusetts.

Isanti, Minnesota Council member George Wimmer's blog is at www.georgewimmer.blogspot.com/

Related Information
From Town Blog to Town Hall is an article about getting public officials online.

Huntington Beach (California) Public Library has three blogs.

Traverse City, Michigan promotes its film festival with their blog.

GrowDetroit.com/blog/ "... will offer a resource/business exchange that will provide users tools and data to help them evaluate and take advantage of local opportunities."

Michigan in Pictures is a savy site promoting this Great Lakes State.

Friends of Seattle is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group whose mission is to improve the quality of life in Seattle as it grows by advocating for progressive urban development policies and electing candidates for public office who support a livable and sustainable city.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What a blog might be used for

A town council (or committee of any organization) might publish minutes of meetings, announcements of upcoming meetings or events, as well as encouraging others to volunteer or assist in various ways. Brainstorming ideas or explaining problems can be included.

Detailed press release type messages can be made available. Contact information of volunteer coordinators could be listed. Input from the public can be requested.

A charitable organization might solicit donations and a PayPal link could be permanently displayed on the page. Other permanent information such as contact info of the blog editors, committee members, the stated purpose of the organization - any of this type info might be attached in sidebars. Blogger.com calls them "Page Elements" and a list of possibilities is supplied, including:

Link List
Add a collection of relevant sites. Link to the County Health Department, local school sites, media, state government, etc.

Add a picture from your computer or from somewhere else on the web.

Add a slideshow of photos of your town and its people.

Survey your visitors by adding a poll to your blog.

Add third-party functionality or other code to your blog.

Video Bar
Display clips from YouTube and Google Video for your readers to watch without leaving the page.

Set up a "Test" blog and experiment

Pictures can also be posted in messages.

Editing blog messages is easy and you see the results immediately. If you know how to use a text editor, such as Microsoft Word, updating a blog like this is a snap. Messages can be formatted to contain bolded and italicized words or links to other sites, such as the Sharp County website.

It is also easy to "test the waters" and cost nothing but a few minutes time. Why not go to https://www.blogger.com, create an account (if you don't already have one) and create a test blog? Experiment to see what you can do. If you get stuck or have questions, email me (Frank Fitzgerald) and I'll try to help.