HAZLET –A discussion is underway at Town Hall on how to significantly improve township communications with the goal of creating a more user-friendly mobile website, a regular newsletter, social media updates and the capability to offer more township services online.
At the Jan. 22 Township Committee workshop meeting, Committeewoman Tara Clark shared her research evaluating other Monmouth County municipal websites, and expressed a preference to investing in a responsive government website model like CivicPlus, currently in use in Holmdel and Middletown.
She also recommended involving stakeholders in the township communications strategy.
“Because this is such a huge undertaking, I really think we should set up a Communication Committee to get this rolled out,” she said. “We want to put this out to the whole community, and we want volunteers to push this initiative. We’d love that buy-in.”
The advisory committee, comprised of 5 to 9 qualified members appointed by the mayor and one member of the governing body serving as a liaison, is envisioned to meet monthly to assess the township’s communication needs, evaluate the exiting proprietary website and consider alternatives. It would work with other township employees and groups to establish best practices for all kinds of communication, media resources, message and branding. Also, it would be empowered to maintain the current website and post on other social media accounts.
After six months, the group could help with marketing efforts for town-wide events and initiatives. It could also prepare a quarterly newsletter, with township employees, “for town events, capital improvement projects, business spotlights – all that good news that’s happening in town,” said Clark. “I would love that, that’s my main focus, to get all that good news out,” said Clark.
Other goals would be to potentially establish an email blast system for residents who wish to opt-in. “I did that with RAGE, it was very successful and people really liked that text blast,” said Clark, referring to her role with the group that successfully halted the JCP&L power line project last year. Other potential ideas include running online surveys for resident input and offering emergency updates.
After a basic website is up, long range goals for the group could include evaluating investing in resources for residents to report issues similar to New York City’s 311 system, to find an effective way to quickly address rumors that could affect public safety, answer citizen questions and participate in the Monmouth in Focus TV show prepared by the county.
Hazlet Township’s current website is powered by Wingman Planning in Wall Township and costs the town $4,800 a year.
Clark said her next steps will be to seek website analytics from the current site to understand how the website is currently being used.