Laura Elizabeth Mayes & Megan Dodge, City of San Antonio
Taking City Hall to the People
Travis Room: HEB UC 2.202

The City’s first SASpeakUp campaign, which included a friendlier, more welcoming tone and budget presentations at community group’s existing meetings, reached audiences where they already were.  Following the success of the first campaign, SASpeakup evolved to add a grassroots element, modeled after traditional political campaigns, with the goal of making information and surveys available as conveniently as possible.

A new survey was developed to gather quantifiable data about budget priorities, demographic information to enhance future campaigns and provide more detailed insights, contact information to keep residents informed and opportunities to provide qualitative data.

Budget information was distributed through simple infographics, highlights, e-blasts, earned media, paid digital advertising and through public open houses.

To create a more equitable process and make sure all residents were included, SASpeakUp launched a bilingual element to the campaign, Alza Tu Voz SA, with materials entirely in Spanish and opportunities to participate in public meetings in Spanish.

By making information dynamic and easy to understand, the campaign has grown exponentially each year.

Overall, the City has increased participation in the annual budgeting process from 1,300 residents in 2015 to more than 6,000 residents in 2017.  More than 600 residents attended the community nights, up from just 282 the previous year.  Approximately one million residents received information about the budget or an opportunity to participate through the form of digital infographics, email marketing or advertisements.

Bilingual SASpeakUp street teams visit communitywide events in every council district, ranging from farmer’s markets and fun runs to art exhibits and theatre productions to gather resident input and answer their budget questions. Coupled with a robust digital presence, online giveaways boost awareness and participation.

The effort revamped the traditional public meeting to “San Antonio Community Nights” – encouraging the public to attend for a chance to meet City officials, ask one-on-one questions and learn about their city with their neighbors. In 2017, the City piloted two special nights to reach new audiences, resulting in the two most popular events in budget outreach history.

A “millennials” night featured a live podcast taping with the City Manager, local food vendors and live music.

Finally, for the first time in City history, a budget night was conducted entirely in Spanish at a popular local park in a primarily Latino area.  The event featured a live radio remote, tacos and paletas, face-painting and other activities for families.  The events were promoted through earned media, paid advertising, social media and door to door block-walking, reaching residents in ways that were convenient to them.


Learning Outcomes:

Participants will learn how to transform a traditionally “boring” issue like a City budget into something that is fun and engaging, attracting more participation.

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