CITY OF OURAY Research reveals citizen communication preference
Written by Administrator
Thursday, 30 January 2014 05:00
By Sheridan Block
Ouray citizens are too busy to attend city council meetings and would prefer to receive information through the newspapers or in their e-mails. That’s what Community Development Coordinator Ann Morgenthaler found in her Citizen Communication Survey conducted in mid-October as part of her final project to complete her masters degree.
The two-page questionnaire was designed to determine how citizens would like to receive communication and provide feedback to the city while helping the city work on efforts to better engage citizens in the future. Morgenthaler presented her findings to the city council and interested community members during a work session on Monday, Jan. 27.
Over 800 surveys were distributed to post office boxes in Ouray and it was also available on the city’s website for online participation. Questions explored citizens’ participation in city affairs, how information regarding city news and issues was received, how feedback to city administration was provided and Internet usage in the community.
To her satisfaction, Morgenthaler received 177 completed surveys, nearly half of which were completed online.
According to her findings, Morgenthaler summarized: citizens are “too busy” to participate in city activities, such as attending city council meetings and joining city committees; word of mouth and newspaper articles are the main channels through which citizens receive information; citizens prefer to receive information through the newspaper, e-mail newsletters and dedicated e-mails; citizens prefer to give input in face-to-face interactions with council members or city staff members rather than speaking at a public meetings; and, 91 percent of residents use the Internet at home at least once a day with usage high among all age groups.
Morgenthaler also noted that trends of the survey reveal that people “want information pushed to them” and expressed interest in how the city could use online methods, whether through website and social media updates or e-mail newsletters, to better engage the community.
As part of her research project, the recent graduate offered several recommendations to the city in order to improve community engagement in the future.
In regard to newspaper communication, Morgenthaler said that people rely and want to continue to rely on information from the newspaper. She suggested that the city proactively and consistently provide information to the media. She mentioned that through the newspaper, the city could reach those that staff may not initially think are interested.
Additionally, in looking at the high Internet usage in the community she suggested that the city look into e-mail newsletters and even modernizing the city’s website.
“We should be reaching out to people in multiple ways,” said Morgenthaler.
Other considerations included engaging stakeholders and the public during public hearings as well as implementing focus groups to accommodate citizens who want in-person communication with staff or council members.
“Successful implementation depends on city council and staff,” said Morgenthaler, adding that the support of elected officials is fundamental.
Council thanked Morgenthaler for her work and research efforts and will take her recommendations into consideration for future communication efforts.