By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: April 27, 2012
Coun. Doug Race flinched.
His eye brows strained for a second and he slumped back into his chair, the look on his face one of disappointment and anxiety.
The council had been discussing social media strategies when Coun. Ted Prior made a remark that seemed to have upset Race.
“May be we could have something like a Councillors Speak on Facebook,” Prior said in jest.
Anyone who reads the following would know the district is referring to Facebook Squamish Speaks, a powerful online platform for community debate and discussions, even if at times riddled with negativity and parochial bitterness.
There is more: “It is not recommended that district staff feed this grapevine with self-serving information that simply adds to the facts.”
The truth is that the district has no place, real or virtual, where it engages with the public in a forthright, honest fashion.
It has no way to find out what the community thinks or feels about its policies and programs. Facebook Squamish Speaks or any such blog or media site has simply filled that vacuum.
But, now the district has realised there is indeed such a thing called social media, and it might even be useful if only they stopped turning their nose at it.
As part of the plan, the communication manager will soon provide information to community in the online platform of the Squamish Chief, a media organisation with which the district enjoys “positive working relationship”.
The plan also calls for sharing good news stories, on nurturing relationships and building trusts and transparency with local reporters.
That would also include coordinating meetings with the Chief reporter for feature stories such as on sewers, waterways, and dikes. The district will keep pitching good news stories to unspecified local media.
There will be media scrums, where local and Lower Mainland reporters would get the chance to learn about what the district is doing.
The district also plans to redesign its website, with a media centre for dissemination information and positive new stories.
The plan also calls for building the Mayor’s unique brand, which would involve him tweeting all the latest news and gossip about the district.
And last, but not the least, it would create a Facebook page for where councillors and the district staff can create their own space for community debate and discussion.
It won’t be called Councillors Speaks, although the Mayor and councillors will try their best to wean away people from sites that have “disparaging commentary”.