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Brand Your City Using Social Media

January 31, 2014
Welcome back to Public Information. This month, I want to continue our discussion of social media. Specifically, how you can strengthen your city’s brand using the no-cost tools at your disposal.

What do I mean when I say brand? I’m talking about the idea or concept that sets your city apart from others. For Milton, our brand is lifestyle-centered, meaning we portray ourselves at all times as a special community where life is simple, beautiful and meaningful.

Our tag? "Home of the Best Quality of Life in Georgia" - a designation given by the Business Journals On Numbers Survey. Our logo? A horse galloping toward text designed in Trajan (meant to denote governmental excellence) and Century Gothic (meant to denote simple, direct communication) fonts. Look at anything we put out – its horses, cows, beautiful country houses, kids, families and pets.

This brand came from months of research involving our strategic plan – meaning hours of meetings with residents, business owners and elected officials – and demonstrates Milton’s commitment to keeping the city rural and family-focused (two of our major stakeholders).

So it’s only natural our social media outreach – our most direct access to residents – shares these strengths.

Our Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages all share the same icon (a beautiful horse) and background (a woman riding a horse in a beautiful setting). Both images are on our Web site, and our videos feature these scenes prominently. So instantly you know they are all visually and thematically linked. They exist solely to give you exactly what you’re used to receiving from the City of Milton.

The posts we share concern exclusively lifestyle content: parks and recreation programs and activities, achievements of local youth and families, roadwork and housing concerns, public safety triumphs, and agendas and vote tallies from meetings (so residents don’t have to waste their time coming to boring meetings – because their lifestyle is so great and time so precious we wouldn’t dare pull them away from those beautiful horses and picturesque settings).

On the other hand, our police department’s Facebook page is a whole different ballgame. It’s there to soften the reputation of police in the community. The only horse you’ll see is on a patch. Instead, you’ll find simply stated, factual information regarding crime prevention, humorous police anecdotes (everybody loves officer friendly) and daily incidents. It’s all business over there, but conducted personably.

The important thing to grasp here is there is no exact answer for how your community should use social media. Instead, do your research, formulate your brand, and let that dictate the content you share.

Otherwise, you’ll be off-message and confuse residents. And that’s not a great place to be.
Jason Wright is Communications Manager for the Georgia Tech Research Library. Up until November 2015, he was the Director of Innovation and Engagement for the City of Milton where he oversaw all aspects of the city's branding and communications efforts, including transparency, automation, design, photography, printing, web services and social media and public outreach.

Prior to Milton, Wright spent seven years working in the magazine and newspaper business. Most recently he was editor of both the Milton Herald and Alpharetta–Roswell Revue and News, where he wrote, edited, photographed for and oversaw design of the weekly papers. Prior to that, he worked as a writer, editor, designer and photographer for local, regional and national publication.