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Crisis Communications on a Budget in the City of South Fulton

Atlanta, GA, USA
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ITsimple
Contact Partner

Goverment Champion

Mrs. Melanie Winfield, Assistant City Manager & Mr. Namarr Strickland, IT Director

Cost

Initial:
1.5 Thousand USD
Maintenance:
20 Thousand USD

Project Status

Operational since 2020

Keywords

mobile app
citizen engagement
community engagement
Crisis Management
COVID19

Challenges Addressed

Economic Development
Citizen Engagement
Transparency
Civic Technology
Essential Services
Customer Service
Digital Government

Motivation

Smart city
Resilient city

Funding / Financing

State and local grants
Social Impact Bond
Advertising Revenue

Project Type

Technology

At a Glance

The City of South Fulton, GA is updating residents with urgent information regarding COVID-19 - including local business openings - through a paired user application and content management platform. The same platform has enabled the city to provide online access to municipal services and online payment.

Problem Addressed

Like many local governments, Covid-19 required the City of South Fulton to shift their communication and community engagement strategy to better meet the needs of their residents during a public health crisis. They realized they needed a better way to connect their constituents to vital information and services during the pandemic, one that could be leveraged to inform their residents of changes in community status, relay the latest safety measures and recommendations, and post official communications from government representatives. Like most other cities, they needed to do it without increasing their IT budget, requiring additional IT support, or impacting their productivity. And if possible, they needed to support struggling local businesses while doing so.

Fifty-four percent of citizens now expect government services to be offered online and 30% of citizens expect those processes to become simpler. ITsimple enabled the City of South Fulton to meet both of these demands and do so during difficult and challenging times. With a population of 99,155, the City of South Fulton is the 8th largest city in the state of Georgia. Bordering Atlanta from the south and west, it's the 3rd largest city in the biggest county in the state, giving it outsized regional influence and prominence.

City of South Fulton used/is using ITsimple's community engagement platform and It'sMyTown city app to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

The City of South Fulton partnered with ITsimple to create a reliable and trusted method of crisis communication for their citizens that allowed them to update their community in real-time with urgent information regarding the pandemic, provide online access to municipal services and billpay opportunities, and support local businesses by communicating their availability and status.

“As our efforts to ensure the safety of residents continue to evolve, sometimes daily, the app and publication platform allows us to communicate those changes to residents directly and immediately,” said City Manager Odie Donald II. “This is another way we are leveraging technology to provide world-class service to those who live and work in our city.”

ITsimple helped the City of South Fulton create a communication and public engagement solution geared to match the needs of the ‘new normal.’ Publication of content is easy, efficient, and effective via SpotlightCMS, ITsimple's turnkey community engagement solution. SpotlightCMS is a real-time community engagement platform that enables management of multiple publication channels - mobile, web and all social media presences - from one user-friendly dashboard and single data entry point. It saves both time and resources, and puts vital information where it needs to be - in the hands of their residents in the avenues they already use to access information.

SpotlightCMS pairs with a free end user app, It’sMyTown, that puts information and services in one location for city residents and makes it far easier for them to engage and find the information they need. It’sMyTown is freely available from Apple and Google app stores, has no privacy concerns or social media dependency because no registration is required and no personal information is gathered or stored, and helps build a sense of community and support local engagement. The City of South Fulton was quickly able to reach 1,000 residents with minimal advertising and effort, and the user base continues to grow.

“ITsimple helped us provide timely information to our residents concerning Covid, communicate concerns and changes in real time, and to preserve resources and budget while doing so.” -Melanie Winfield, Assistant City Manager, City of South Fulton

Outcomes

  1. The city was able to localize their crisis communications to reflect the needs of their unique circumstances and constituent needs, and build community engagement while doing so.
  2. The city was quickly able to reach over 1000 residents and support their rapidly expanding user base.
  3. The city can simultaneously publish all their content updates across their website, app, and social media presences when information changes rapidly, saving them both time and money
  4. Since SpotlightCMS has no back-end IT requirements, the City of South Fulton was able to conserve its IT resources both financially and in terms of maintenance and support.

Lessons Learned

  1. The pubic responds well to an official mobile app that doesn't require registration or collect personal user information.
  2. A responsive website doesn't have the same essential features as a mobile app. Notifications, location and camera based services, mobile calendars navigation apps integrations and more.
  3. When the city checked the percentage of traffic to its official website from mobile devices, it was clear that a mobile app had to be part of the communications strategy and budget.
  4. Today's technologies can deliver mobile capabilities to cities with no technical skills or infrastructure required on their part.

Something Unique

Setup took just a couple days and required no IT support from the City, as SpotlightCMS is a cloud-based software as a service (SaaS).

Who Should Consider?

Local governments who need to implement effective crisis communications on a budget, streamline their content publication, and improve their community engagement.

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