This semester, Valdosta State University students are getting hands-on experience working with the Valdosta Fire and Police to create a social media strategy plan for each department.
Recognizing that organizations all over the world — including public safety agencies — are using social media to communicate with increasingly diverse and large audiences, the city’s Public Information Office continued a partnership with VSU’s Social Media Theory class that began in 2015. Taught by Dr. David Nelson, the students are divided into groups and tasked with developing a realistic social media plan that targets and engages millennials in their local government. The project will then be judged by the city’s Public Information Office and both chiefs to constitute a large part of their overall class grade and provided a real-life experience for the university students.
“Social Media is a huge tool that we use to notify the public about emergencies, crime tips, and overall news of our department. In this day in age, most everyone has a smartphone making their access to information quicker and constant. Our goal is to continue to utilize that technology to engage with residents as best as possible. I am excited to see the final projects at the end of the semester,” said Police Chief Leslie Manahan.
“The Valdosta Fire Department always strives to offer the highest level of service to our citizens. Through this partnership, we will provide students with real-world experience and in return learn ways to reach and engage with residents on our social media pages,” said Fire Chief Brian Boutwell. “Just in the last year, we have ramped up prevention and education campaigns that have proven to be effective. We are always looking for new ways to find the right channels, correct engagement strategies, and studying analytics from our platforms to build programs that are successful and make a difference.”
Gabrielle Lamura, a Senior and Communications Major, says she is grateful for the experience that will offer her career experience before graduating in the Spring.
“I’ve never been in a class where I have had a project so immersive in my community. I am excited about this project because we get to work with the city, the firefighters, and police officers as clients. This is a real-time experience, and we get to form a hands-on plan for what works and what doesn’t work with their social media,” said Lamura.
Throughout the semester, students will meet with city staff and VFD and VPD to look at the department analytics and address ideas related to targeting a younger generation. City Communications staff will then implement the ideas with the goal of finding more effective ways for the public safety agencies to communicate with Valdosta residents.
For more information or other educational opportunities in local government, contact Public Information Officer Ashlyn Johnson at 229-259-3548 or visit www.valdostacity.com.