NEW: Royal Palm looks for outside help to communicate with residents

1:57 p.m Friday, Feb. 16, 2018 Local
(Kristina Webb/The Palm Beach Post)

Royal Palm Beach wants to know how it can better communicate with its residents — and it’s hoping for some outside help.

The village plans to hire a consultant to help it assess its strategy and look ahead to future needs. A request for proposals is open through Feb. 21.

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How Royal Palm Beach communicates with the public has changed greatly over the years, Village Manager Ray Liggins said. Other municipalities have entire teams dedicated to communications, but Royal Palm Beach staff and elected officials share that duty.

“We feel we’re at a point where we need some expertise,” Liggins said. “Most people used to rely on a newspaper for news. … It’s not the same anymore.”

With the variety of communication methods now available to the village, the topic of how to best disseminate news is one that has come up in the village council’s strategic planning sessions. Among methods now used by the village: website notices, email alerts, an e-newsletter from Mayor Fred Pinto known as Vector, and social media including Facebook and Twitter.

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The first step for the consultant will be to audit Royal Palm Beach’s current strategy to set a benchmark for any improvements and show village staff how effective the tools are they now use.

“It will help us decide, does the new plan replace the old or does it supplement the old? And we’ll have the document to do it,” Liggins said.

He pointed to Pinto’s Vector: “That was responding to complaints of people at a meeting, people saying, ‘We didn’t know anything about this’ on an issue,” Liggins said. “It gives people the ability to get an email sent to them where if they read it, they know what’s going.”

The village also plans to update its website over the next year, a process in which the consultant will take part.

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Social media also poses challenges to the village, Liggins said, including in records retention. Having a professional on-board will help his staff know how to best use tools like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

A solid communications strategy also could help Royal Palm Beach combat rumors that occasionally pop up on social media. Liggins said he sometimes tries to comment when he sees misinformation on Facebook, but he’s restricted by Royal Palm Beach’s public records rules

“What I do in my comments is I say, ‘Call the village manager’s office, call Village Hall if you have a concern,’” Liggins said. “There is not an email, there is not a CivicPlus request, there is not a phone call that we do not respond to. But responding and clarifying on private Facebook pages that are privately administered, that gets a little tough.”

After the Feb. 21 deadline, Liggins said he expects the process to move quickly with selection the following week and an item on the village council’s agenda in March or early April.