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CSL continues to improve communications tools

As the Côte Saint-Luc city councillor responsible for the communications portfolio, I am pleased to report upon a number of initiatives based on a monthly report submitted by Darryl Levine.

In February, Darryl, who is the city's dynamic director of public affairs and communications,  produced four videos for CSL-TV, made aesthetic improvements to CoteSaintLuc.org, organized the first ever meeting of municipal communicators to discuss best practices, and attended a roundtable discussion about municipal communications in Kansas City.

The video productions and website improvements were produced in house using low-cost, high value tools. In the case of some of the videos, we used a consumer video camera, wireless microphone, existing lighting on the auditorium stage and edited it in a professional way. In the case of the website, we were able to find new ways to display content thanks to new, constantly updated free modules in our content management system, Drupal (pronounced“Droo-pull”). This open-source and free product, used by 500,000 companies, universities and organizations, was selected in October 2009 to run the Whitehouse.gov website in place of a costly, proprietary system. Our department selected it in October 2006—three years earlier—to run the city website.

In short, the department produces outstanding value to the city by delivering high quality communication services in-house for far less than would be possible with external suppliers or expensive systems. We operate smartly by copying best practices of larger organizations. And, sometimes, we are even a few years ahead of other governments.

In February, our videos were viewed 652 times—which doubled the number of all time views since launching in December. As a guiding principle, the department tries to copy or mimic the best practices of large companies or national governments, rather than municipal ones. That is, we try to aim higher  than what people expect from a municipality. For instance, when determining how best to do a Facebook fan page, we studied the US Department of State and NASA, rather than any municipality. In the case of videos, we studied the video messages from the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Then we try to make our videos look as good—or as good as possible given our resources. For instance, the White House videos show the President sitting in beautiful rooms. We cannot replicate the exact look, however we do have at our disposal an auditorium with professional spot lights and back lights so we can produce something that looks professional, but simple. Right now we have two messages from our mayor on CSL TV.

Following a meeting of our Communications committee, which I share, we made changes to the front page and inside pages at CoteSaintLuc.org. The committee recommended that we make the front page more “dynamic” and to include information such as press releases on the front.

Here is how we responded. We embedded a video from CSL-TV at the top centre of the page. This will create a sense of dynamism and also help draw viewers to our videos. We added rounded corners to our front page sections and added new images to sections such as eServices and Calendar. Now  we have started to  reorganize the content on the main section pages, such as Public Documents, to create a more organized, structured, and elegant feel. The changes are ongoing

Recently, our department  the first ever meeting of communications managers (public affairs and marketing) from the cities representing the Association of Suburban Municipalities. The goal was to create more contact between the cities at the level of communication departments, and to share best practices in our field. The next meeting will take place in Westmount in April


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