COVID-19 Provides Several Silver Linings For This One-Person Shop

As government agencies around the country address the current public health emergency, communicators have been charged with developing effective and creative messaging for residents, a unique challenge to say the least. Over the next few weeks several 3CMA members will share the details and outcomes of their COVID-19 information campaigns, continuing the founding principle of 3CMA that ideas are for sharing.

By Enita Jubrey
Assistant to the Town Manager | Town of Windsor, CT 

In March, the Town of Windsor activated a Unified Command structure that brought together multiple departments to coordinate an effective response to COVID-19. 

Under the leadership of our town manager, seven categories were identified to provide the framework of a coordinated response:

  • Planning and Logistics
  • Communications and Information
  • Human and Social Services
  • Public Safety
  • Public Health
  • Human Resources/Finance
  • Business/Economic Development

Providing information both externally to Windsor residents and internally to town employees (while also leading the Human and Social Services Departments) was a far bigger task than this one-person, public relations shop could handle.  

The Communications and information team was quite eclectic and included myself, an IT application specialist, (who single handedly built and updates the entire back end of our website); our fire inspector (who specializes in public education, knows her way around technology and was not afraid to act in several PSA’s); a 25-year old, wide-eyed and enthusiastic administrative aide from the recreation department with uber graphic and social media skills; and a brand new assistant town manager who had been on the job three months.

We zoomed, brainstormed, collaborated, shared tasks, worked long hours and laughed a lot.  We did pretty much what I am sure you all were doing: website updates with both State of Connecticut and town information, social media promos, PSA’s on handwashing and social distancing, etc.  Here’s some of the other highlights:

  • Coordinated a “Windsor Together” tour that traversed through neighborhoods featuring first responders and town departments 
  • Completed our first ever Facebook Live broadcast of “Windsor Together” tour
  • Produced town department “check-in” videos 
  • Developed an employee resource page to keep everyone connected
  • Filmed mayor and town manager update videos for both internal and external use
  • Partnered with our local college prep school Loomis Chaffee to offer Windsor residents the ability to participate in their COVID-19 Speaker Series free of charge   
  • Promoted virtual recreation and library programs
  • Created “Windsor Masked Heroes” mask-making videos
  • Developed “Windsor Forward” theme as we began our ascent to “normalcy” and progressed through the state mandated phases of re-opening
  • Updated COVID-19 website page to more clearly identify and explain the reported numbers provided by the state in a way people could truly understand
  • Designed building re-opening signs  
  • Presented a virtual Memorial Day observance (hopefully a future Savvy winner!)

The list goes on, and I assume you are all doing, or have done similar work for your communities.  My point, and the reason for writing this blog, is to give a shout out to all the small towns and jurisdictions out there and to those of you operating one-person shops. The secret to being a one-person shop is – don’t be one. I was fortunate when our organization immediately went into the Unified Command structure to take on the Coronavirus emergency because that method is designed to pull people together from various departments to work toward one common goal.

Silver lining #1: There was immediate chemistry among five people (some working remotely, some at town hall) that did not normally work together. We had open and honest communication whereby ideas were praised, criticized or reshaped with total consensus of the team.

Silver lining #2: There was a shared desire among team members to tackle each situation with the affirmation that whatever we did, it would be innovative and of the highest quality for our residents.

Silver Lining #3: That 25-year old, wide-eyed and enthusiastic administrative aide from the recreation department with uber graphic and social media skills I mentioned in the beginning of this blog?  He just received a title change and promotion.  At the Sept. 8 Windsor Town Council meeting, the position of communications and outreach specialist was approved! 

Silver Lining #4: (and my personal favorite) Not long into the pandemic, the team made a promise that “When this thing is over, let’s get together once a month to work on other marketing and communication initiatives!”

Music to this former “one-person shop” girl’s ears.