PW Goes Hollywood
The final public relations medium looked at in the survey was the use of videos and television segments. This technique was used by 57% of survey respondents. Of those who use video or television to get their message out, 54% used in-house staff to prepare their segments. The productions are either aired on local television or are available on video for viewing at local schools, meetings, or on the government's Web site.
An example of the use of video for promotion of a public works department can be seen under the “streaming video” link on the city of Hollywood, Fla., Web site at www.hollywoodfl.org. Visitors to the site can view the Clean City Hollywood segment—a black and white “retro” piece that plays using RealPlayer software. This segment—also available on CD-ROM/DVD—was produced to inform the city's population of almost 140,000 about implementation of automated garbage collection and other enhanced services in garbage pickup. Lynne Pellarin, operations coordinator for Hollywood Public Works, said, “While actors were used in the video, public works staff assisted with the overall concept and script development, shooting schedule, and editing of the final product.”
Turek said the city first thought about moving into video production in 1997. “The city manager felt the city needed to move into video production and chose public works to be the pilot overview,” he said. “Personnel in the city's recreation department had enough background in video production so one person was transferred to the information technology department to get the project going.”
This led to the creation of a Production and Broadcast Services Division that administers the city's cable franchise agreement, issues film permits, broadcasts public meetings, and programs the city's government access channel in addition to producing original videos about the city and its departments. This division, with an operating budget of almost $530,000 in fiscal year 2004, has developed videos highlighting the city's sanitation service, public works department, housing rehabilitation program, parks and recreation, water treatment program, historical preservation efforts, commission meetings, and other videos showcasing public employee award winners and homes in Hollywood.
The city of Hollywood is now working on a new video, “Caring for Our Planet in Our Own Backyard.” “The new video will show that everything our public works department does has an environmental side, and we are cognizant of this,” said Pellarin. “Segments will demonstrate how we apply this philosophy in delivery of services such as pesticide applications.”
Indianapolis also has produced video segments highlighting its public works department. Smith-Simmons said their “public information office decided to produce a monthly television show, ‘Keeping Indianapolis Running,' to promote the various services and resources provided by the department of public works. The show airs on our local city/county cable television station approximately 15 to 20 times a month and highlights issues related to water quality, transportation, operations, and the environment. In addition, a listing of upcoming department of public works meetings is displayed at the closing of each show. An audio version of this show is also aired on Susquehanna Radio during the station's community affairs program.”
As for how the television segments are received by the public, Smith-Simmons said, “The overall theme we're hearing is ‘I didn't know you did that, too.' The television show, as well as the radio version, has been a fantastic way to increase the awareness of the department to the Indianapolis community.”
But using video segments as marketing tools can be costly. “If you have an up-to-speed internal video production department, do it,” said Pellarin. “If not, it will cost you a lot of money because you will have to pay market value for everything such as script writing. It can get very expensive.”
Fortunately for public works departments located in smaller communities or communities without support staff and a significant public relations budget, those surveyed agreed with Smith-Simmons: Printed materials had the most positive impact on public perception of their public works department.