The City of Richmond Harnesses the Power of Social Media to Engage the Public
On November 12, 2020, the City of Richmond’s floodwall was partially closed to protect low-lying areas within city limits from high waters flowing downstream in the James River, which cuts through downtown Richmond, Virginia. The City’s Collection Systems & Regulatory Affairs Division created an engaging and informative social media campaign spanning Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to educate Richmond residents about the floodwall’s closure and provide an in-depth background on its history and purpose.
The multi-platform campaign thoroughly explained the value of the extensive infrastructure that Richmonders often consider unsightly. While local media outlets usually reported solely on closure locations and the rising levels of the James River, the Collection Systems & Regulatory Affairs Division provided a more comprehensive explanation on the importance of the floodwall’s closure – to protect the people, homes, businesses, and infrastructure behind it.
The campaign yielded several media mentions for the Division, in addition to increased followers and an abundance of engagement on Richmond’s RVAH2O social media platforms. More importantly, the effort helped to educate citizens and further their understanding and appreciation for the floodwall. By showcasing Richmond’s past efforts in flood planning and mitigating its impacts, citizens are better informed, more engaged, and increasingly supportive of the work the Collection Systems & Regulatory Affairs Division continues to do.
By influencing the narrative of the floodwall closure, RVAH2O was able to shape the story and establish the Collections Systems & Regulatory Affairs Division as the authority for communications on the subject. Rather than issuing a blanket statement, this effort tailored the messaging for each social media platform and allowed for direct interaction with the public through likes, comments, shares, and questions in real time. Though structured and timed campaigns and collateral are essential in outreach and communications efforts, the Collections Systems & Regulatory Affairs Division found that seizing the moment with impromptu messaging and engagement can also benefit an agency.
NACWA awarded the City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities a 2022 National Environmental Achievement Award in the Public Information & Education, E-Media category for its impactful campaign. Congratulations to everyone involved!