Florida city’s communication department recognized for its efforts by Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative

Translating ideas and 10-year plans created by administrators in a town office into concepts that are readily digestible by the general public isn’t always easy; Port St. Lucie, Fla.’s communication department is doing it right.

Over the last five years, the city’s communication department has earned more than 100 state, local and national awards for its creativity and community impact, according to a statement from Results for America, the lead partner of What Works Cities. What Works Cities is a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative that helps cities use evidence and data to tackle pressing challenges. Port St. Lucie is the latest recipient of this year’s Sharman Stein Award for Storytelling Changemakers from What Works Cities. The award is named after Stein, the organization’s founding communications director who died in 2018 and is given annually a city official or team that draws on the power of public communication to cultivate trust and collaboration between local government and residents.

“Our department’s vision is to reinvent government communication. By utilizing data and listening to our residents’ feedback, we are achieving that vision,” said Sarah Prohaska, Port St. Lucie’s communications director in a statement. “We have an incredible team and are extremely honored that Results for America and What Works Cities have decided us to be among the cutting-edge cities recognized as Storytelling Changemakers.”

The recognition was given for the department’s general work, an explanation of the award says. A survey by the National Research Center this year of city residents found that more than 60 percent rated the city’s availability of information, use of social media and quality of video as excellent or good.

And leading up to the 2020 Census, the department distributed educational information and helped the city exceed the county, state and national response rate.

Finally, during the pandemic, the communication department created a COVID-19 outreach program that included live town halls with state and national representatives held via Facebook. The department also released weekly videos featuring the city manager, emailed residents directly and kept its website updated.

And through the communication department’s efforts, the city’s annual Citizen Summit has become a well attended fixture, even when held virtually last year. The summit is put on as a way to give residents in-depth information about the city’s strategic plan and provide input on goals.

“When my team partnered with the communications department to educate residents about the city’s strategic planning process, it opened up a new level of data-driven engagement and communication with residents that I believe few other cities in the nation have achieved,” said Kate Parmelee , director of strategic initiatives and innovation at City of Port St. Lucie. “Their innovation and ideas allow us to reach thousands each year to gather the needed data, but also to educate and report the data back to citizens. The communications department helps engage our citizens in making significant changes in their city.”

Winners of the What Works Cities award are selected based on their proactivity in leveraging modes of communication that reach residents with information about their city’s progress; and on their ability to contribute to improving community trust and engagement through their efforts. Last year the award was presented to Gilbert, Ariz.

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