Organizing Your City’s Social Media Presence? Plano, Texas Provides an Example

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Post by: Kim Stephens with contribution by: Hal Grieb

This past week I asked the question in a blog post: Should each organization in a city or county such as fire, law enforcement, emergency management, public health, have their own social media footprint including separate facebook pages? I argued in that post that it might be wise, especially in the current fiscal climate, to combine efforts. Hal Grieb, an expert in social media and emergency management, described how the city of Plano, Texas, where he worked prior to recently joining Previstar, had already designed a social media strategy similar to my suggestion (so much for being original!). Hal has graciously supplied me with information from their strategy and it is the basis for the post today.

I think part of Plano’s success is probably due to the fact that a web 2.0 internal committee was established in order to discuss issues and recommendations and PLAN for their presence across all social media platforms. In addition to other issues such as open records and records retention, they also determined how the City of Plano would be organized to use social media and other web-based social internet sites.  There were three choices including one voice, one voice per authorized department, or hybrid/categorical voices. Each of these choices were broken down into pros and cons. Below is an excerpt that describes these choices from the committee’s paper “Web 2.0 Findings”.

One single City voice

A single voice speaking on behalf of the entire City organization would make the site easier to find in the selected social media platform, would provide plenty of material for posting, minimize command and control issues, and would provide easier record management.

Potential Problems: It would result in excessive postings per day which may cause subscribers to leave the site as well as increasing the work load for the administrator. In addition it would be difficult or detrimental to followers’ ability to keep up with what they deem to be “important” posts. Participants would not be able to be selective about the information they need / want to obtain from the City which may go against the “social” nature of the medium.

One voice per authorized department

A single voice per each authorized department would allow greater participation by subject matter experts who provide specific information desired by the participants. This, then, allows individual department identities to be created and minimizes the postings to that specific topic. This also spreads maintenance and monitoring responsibilities across multiple administrators.

Potential Problems: The per-department option might over-saturate the outlets with City of Plano options and could single out individual departments negatively. The greater the number of sites, the greater the management responsibility for the “look and feel” consistency of all sites in addition to increasing the accountability for records management. Departments would be required to make an individual business case for participating in social media and then work through a process to define which platforms would be appropriate and useful increasing work loads for two or more groups just to enter the medium.

Category-based Hybrid Voices

This provides a limited number of sites which would handle all department postings sent to the appropriate category. Several, but limited, topical categories allow departments with overarching services to be available to participants by topic. This helps disassociate specific departments from being singled out and provides enough, manageable content to keep the site interesting and engaging. This also allows a manageable span of control and monitoring.

Potential Problems: Some departments may feel the need to have an individual voice or may not clearly fit into one of the topics. This option will still require coordination of multiple departments, but not as many as a single City voice and will require some additional training to incorporate workload sharing.

The committee ultimately settled on the hybrid recommendation as demonstrated by this initial draft chart.

Although the entire strategy is not yet enacted the “Prepared in Plano” and “Living in Plano” portions are. The Prepared in Plano category includes: Emergency Management, Fire, Police, Public Safety Communications (PSC), and Health. The administration of the sites was envisioned as follows:

Each pre-identified department will have the option to designate an administrator to participate and post what they deem fit once their topic has been determined.

This Web 2.0 committee will decide which departments go under each voice. Each voice will have a primary administrator to help manage the voice and resolve any issues that may arise. Should the topic’s primary administrator not be able to resolve the issue, it would then be sent to the Director of Public Information for determination and forwarding to the appropriate site. The Webmaster will have administrative rights to all sites.

In order to keep audio/visual materials accessible to each of the departments they also strategized about how those items would be stored and distributed. The following was determined:

  • The City of Plano will secure a single location in which to store photos and video which would then be available to feed to sites per topical category upon selection by an administrator.
  • YouTube / Flickr have the ability to filter by voice / category on a single account, enabling citizens to search all or selected voices while facilitating cross branding.
  • These sites are not as socially interactive as other channels and YouTube gives the ability to closed caption all videos to ensure ADA compliance.
  • Each voice will have the ability to upload content to the media specific types, but overarching ownership would belong to PTN / PIO Department ensuring correct branding and oversight (note graphic below).
  • This also falls within current department missions and does not impede on current job roles and responsibilities yet facilitates “on the fly” recordings by each hybrid voice. (Note the draft visual below.)


I really like how this strategy works from their web page. It provides the organized look and feel that the committee was hoping for.

If you have any questions about this strategy Hal tweets at @Hal_Grieb (one underscore).

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