FALMOUTH — Town officials say their new plan for communicating with residents has paid off, with more community engagement since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But officials also said there’s still more work to be done to attract more people to the communication platforms.

Falmouth Education and Outreach Coordinator Erin Cadigan has spearheaded efforts to create the town’s first communications plan, which she hopes will increase community engagement and get information out faster. Courtesy

According to Falmouth Education and Outreach Coordinator Erin Cadigan, the plan, which began in August 2019, called for more communication with residents through emails or newsletters, the importance of which was highlighted as residents looked for information during the onset of the pandemic about closures and the state of emergency in town.

“The pandemic was a chance to leverage all of the work we started last year, and we were able to quickly identify teams across departments to get info out,” Cadigan said. “These efforts worked and our subscribers jumped. 

The plan, created in-house by Cadigan following research on other local municipalities’ plans, calls for department heads to put out succinct messages so all platforms have matching information and build social media and internet presence to disseminate news.

The plan also calls for more hard copy and online newsletters and posts, which Cadigan said the town has begun, as well as increasing resident engagement.

Subscriptions by residents and business owners to town news increased by over 1,000 users, from about 2,000 to 3,400, between the beginning of March and end of April. But since then only 100 or so more have trickled in.

“A lot of work went into this, but it reminds me of a corporate presentation in terms that the information is going from town to consumer to resident, but public engagement is the tricky one,” resident Lisa Joy said.

Joy, as well as Ferrante and resident Marjorie Getz, said they’d like to see more input from residents in the town’s communications, such as incorporating local gardeners in the Living Lawns mailings or having a knowledgeable resident quoted in town articles, as well as having public officials open dialogues with residents.

“If the newsletter wasn’t one voice, having more people quoted would give it strength and if it becomes a stronger part of protocol and you see community voices in the articles then it strengthens the article itself, while allowing community input,” Joy said.

Joy also said the plan should include guidelines for communication between the Town Council and residents.

“Some of these email chains (with residents) get out of hand, so having that written down would be helpful,” Joy said.

“I am excited, thrilled to see this much information making its way to residents,” Ferrante said at a Sept. 14 council presentation.

The plan is still being developed, Cadigan said, with another resident survey going out at the end of the month to solicit more input on how to update communications, and Cadigan is also looking at incorporating text alerts for subscribers. The plan will then have a public forum before being finalized.

“There has been such an improvement since this started,” Ferrante said.

After the survey results are tallied Cadigan will be back for another presentation on the results and possible changes to the plan.

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