The Town of Burlington silos its communications with the public in separate departments and lacks a centralized communications policy, according to findings from the Edward J. Collins., Jr. Center for Public Management at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
In a presentation to the Burlington Select Board Feb. 27, Collins Center public services manager Morgan Clark said Burlington had similar strengths and weaknesses to other towns and cities in Massachusetts, and had room for improving the ways it communicates to the public.
In the presentation, Clark said many of Burlington’s departments have their own social media accounts, websites and newsletters, but the departments vary in the frequency and efficacy of their outreach.
Clark recommended Burlington create a new job for a municipal communications professional, or even an entire department to help other parts of government craft messages and connect with the people they hope to reach. Clark also suggested the town streamline its social media accounts and be more strategic in when and what those accounts post.
For larger initiatives, Clark suggested focus groups so town electeds could tell if their messaging was successful. “When large efforts are on the table, the more the better as far as outreach and giving people the opportunity to be heard, and hear from you,” she said.
According to its website, the Collins Center is “dedicated to improving efficiency, effectiveness, governance and accountability at all levels of government, with a particular focus on state and local government.” The Select Board partnered with the Collins Center to analyze how the town communicates with constituents and how departments communicate with each other.
The report presented Feb. 27 was a result of Phase 1 of the Collins Center’s audit of town communications. In Phase 2, Center staff plan to interview department heads, speak with members of the community, and present a final communications plan in June.
“I’m very much looking forward to the output of everything in Phase 2,” said Select Board Chair Nick Priest. “I think this is actually a really good time for us to start to figure out what some of the recommendations mean to us.”