By Nate Dolha
Published: Nov. 24, 2012
During this year’s Union of BC Municipalities conference, I kept my social media channels open, eager to hear the new, innovative ideas on tap to solve the woes facing communities right across this beautiful province.
I was delighted to see regular commentary from some of our elected representatives, but there was one missing voice.
That voice? Mayor Kirkham.
After a few light hearted jabs in morse code were passed around the twitterverse regarding this absence, I started to ponder the social media communication gap between our elected leader and our citizens
Is it a case of careful message management, or just a generation gap?
I looked at mayors from other communities who leverage these new media tools to share, promote, and inspire the communities they lead.
These mayors share their vision for their communities, and solicit meaningful feedback from their citizens in all conceivable ways; email, snail mail, tweets, wall posts, You Tube videos… You name it, and they’ll use it!
Calgary mayor, Naheed Nenshi, has made social media the backbone of his communication toolbox. Starting with the ‘Purple Revolution’, Naheed Nenshi turned to social media to mobilize the young voter and technocrats alike, and gave them a voice in a campaign centred around change.
Stunning the local establishment, Mr. Nenshi was successful in his campaign, and has remained a popular mayor.
It’s in part due to the way he engages Calgarians through all modes of communication, and his desire to have real conversations, not just good news reporting through traditional outlets.
Closer to home, Mayor Greg Moore of Port Coquitlam is very active with social media, and leverages these tools to further the interests of his home community, and of Metro Vancouver, where he acts as chair.
This year, Port Coquitlam was recognized by the UBCM for Best Practices in Social Media, and serves as a model for effective engagement through new media.
Squamish has a large commuter population, and as such, many of these citizens are unable to engage in the usual 9 to 5 mode for the myriad of committees working to better our community.
If we take a deeper look at these folks, we know that many are passionate about the community they live in, but are disenfranchised by a civic engagement model that relies on traditional media, ribbon cutting and feel good stories.
I have no doubt that our mayor is passionate about our community, and is working hard to address the issues we face.
To stand up as mayor, you have to be. But this is a changing world, and to be an effective leader today, you need to engage the citizens in the modes that make them comfortable, even if that means stepping out of your comfort zone.
Engage. Encourage. Inspire. We’re waiting…