How the City of Meriden, CT Used Social Media to Encourage Social Distancing and Ensure Resident Safety
Due to COVID-19, local government authorities had to completely rethink their standards for and regulation of park usage. In Meriden, CT, the community considers its inventory of parks and open space to be one of the city’s greatest assets. During the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, the City of Meriden used Zencity to fill in the information gaps related to local parks left by local media.
While some cities chose to close their parks and open spaces in response to the Coronavirus crisis, Meriden, CT did not. Residents were pleased. However, there was confusion around social distancing guidelines. Many residents took advantage of the park space but disregarded safety measures. City management proceeded to dispatch drones as a means of ensuring that park visitors maintained social distance. The city’s actions were initially met with negativity and uneasiness voiced online by residents and monitored by Zencity.
The Communications team, led by Belen Michelis, sought out a way to improve resident sentiment and understanding about the City’s use of drones. As quick action was necessary, she needed to efficiently confirm that residents were being heard. However, without the use of technology this task would have been nearly impossible as surveying and manually A/B testing would have taken too long.
The Zencity Solution
The City of Meriden used Zencity as their core tool for creating agile and impactful communications in a multitude of challenging scenarios such as understanding negative sentiment towards drone monitoring in parks. While the city was releasing clear guidelines and highlighting regulations about the use of parks and green spaces during the height of the virus, it turned to Zencity when they saw that residents were not responding well to these initiatives.
After monitoring their Zencity dashboard, city officials pinpointed the source of the community’s uneasiness in the form of the security drones. Using Zencity’s platform, they also found that messaging from the Mayor’s official channel had the highest levels of engagement and was by far the best platform to use to speak directly with residents. After acquiring these insights, Belen Michelis and the Communications teams worked tirelessly to disseminate relevant information and clarifications via city-owned channels. As residents began to understand the reasoning behind the use of drones, resident sentiment began to change.
When it announced the new use of drones, Meriden saw a spike in negative sentiment (12.5%). After readjusting messaging and announcing from their own channels, the City saw negative sentiment dissipate completely.
The ability to understand the direct source of residents’ concerns, allowed the city leaders to adjust their messaging and better utilize certain accounts, like the Mayor’s. As a result, The City of Meriden, CT, was able to improve resident health and safety, as well as save critical time and resources. Now, with reopening in effect, the City is continuing to receive these same benefits.
“We use the discourse timeline and event markers from Zencity’s dashboard to ensure the effectiveness of our resident-facing communications. Zencity is literally the only way I can get a true big picture view of all discourse taking place, both on our city-owned channels and those that are not run by the city. The ability to parse through the chatter from one place is invaluable.”