Fulton, OH Uses CivicMobile to Improve Local Government Communications
In the county of Fulton, in the state of Ohio, there’s something for everyone. Comprised of seven distinct communities that are home to over 42,000 individuals, Fulton, Ohio offers the beauty of pastoral charm, and the convenience of being a short drive from the metropolitan area of Toledo. When data from CivicPlus unveiled that a significant portion of its citizens were accessing its local government website from a mobile device, the communications team at Fulton County devised a strategy to leverage the CivicMobile® app to generate its own local news and public relations and enhance its local government communications. As a result, citizens are engaged and informed, and the communications team is benefitting from limitless possibilities for future mobile initiatives.
For the local government administrators in Fulton County, updating citizens on new initiatives and community news can be a challenge. For Toni Schindler, director for marketing and communications for the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, the decision to mobile optimize the county’s communication strategy was driven by data.
“The data analytics report we received on our website from our CivicPlus account manager told us that in 2015, 40 percent of our website traffic was coming from a mobile device,” said Schindler. “Since we knew our citizens were already accessing our civic website from a mobile device, and we knew CivicPlus offered a mobile app solution, we knew it would be a tool that could help us engage our citizens in meaningful ways.”
The CivicMobile App
The CivicMobile app offers citizens a mobile-optimized community engagement experience, without the need for administrators to manage multiple digital properties. Since the app pulls information from the same content management system (CMS) as the County’s CivicEngage website, Schindler and her colleagues can make updates for both the website and the app from the same interface. Updates are automatically synchronized to the app in real-time, ensuring consistent communications.
An Internal Collaboration Tool
Schindler and her colleagues have used the capabilities of the CivicMobile app to solve a variety of internal and external communication needs. For her administrative team members who work out of the office and in the community, the app allows them to quickly access department information, phone numbers, email addresses, and other information without needing to dig through emails or search the website through a mobile web browser. According to Schindler, using the app for quick reference functionality has been especially helpful for Fulton County’s emergency responders.
“When our emergency service manager is out in the field, it’s easy for him to look up information on the app, pull up contacts, and access important community information. He can find the content he needs in just a few clicks.”
Synchronizing real-time with the county’s Alert Center module, a key feature of its CivicEngage CMS, internal staff can quickly and easily access important documents and meeting agendas when away from their desks.
“We receive the Commissioner’s meeting agendas by email and they are posted on the website,” said Schindler, “But it’s faster to access them from the mobile app. With just a few clicks I can easily see the overview of what’s on the agenda.”
Promoting Tourism, and Encouraging Local Exploration
The app has also served as a promotional tool to encourage county tourism.
“We recently instituted a Visitors Bureau,” said Schindler. “We have been promoting the app as a tool for visitors to our community to quickly and easily find the information they need, like where to eat, where to stay, and what attractions to visit. Plus, all those features have been equally helpful for our citizens. Sometimes, when you live in a rural area, you can forget about the great assets and resources that are part of your community and close by. To be able to quickly look for coffee shops, or restaurants in different regions of the county has proven to be a great way to get our residents out in our community and exploring new or forgotten places."
An Election Season Asset
One of the most beneficial ways that Fulton County has leveraged its CivicMobile app was to encourage civic engagement during election season. Schindler worked with the County’s Board of Elections to educate citizens about the upcoming election, publicize polling locations and hours, and educate the community about early polling options. The county also promoted the use of the app to citizens on the go as a convenient way to watch local election results come in.
“The app offered us an additional and convenient way to bring our local election news right to our citizens, as it happened, using advanced technology.”
Another popular component of the app for citizens is its ability to integrate with the county website’s job listings. Partnering with local employers, Fulton County aggregates a list of all available jobs in the community, giving citizens a single, easily searchable database to start their job search. Thanks to the CivicMobile app, those job listings, are mobile optimized.
“We have a “Job Leads of the Week” feature managed by our workforce development department,” said Schindler. “Citizens can see the latest job openings across the community. By aggregating them all together, it saves people a step in the search process, and the fact that job listings are easily accessible from a mobile device is a huge convenience.”
Offering access to the same, powerful Notify Me® subscription-based notification system that powers its desktop website, citizens can receive alert push notifications directly through the Fulton County CivicMobile app.
“Our department managers and elected officials often report how useful the Notify Me option is to them as well,” said Schindler, “Especially when there’s a local breaking news event, or an emergency, like severe weather, or an update from the Sheriff’s Office. Receiving those push notifications right to their mobile phone via the app is critical.”
Connecting Loved Ones
One of the most innovative and meaningful ways that Fulton County is leveraging the app is to connect seniors and their families in activities at the County’s Senior Center. Schindler uses the app to share and promote upcoming activities at the center, along with a regular newsletter, and even a daily meal schedule.
“It can be an extremely helpful way for families to connect with their senior parents,” said Schindler. “A citizen can look-up the day’s senior center menu and activity schedule right from his phone and discuss it with his mom or dad.”
Reuniting Families with Lost Pets
Another innovative use for the CivicMobile app that Schindler has implemented involves helping families reunite with lost pets. Schindler explains,
“We have a primary dog warden icon on the app that goes right to the dog warden’s page. On that page, we list dogs that are available for adoption in the county, as well as dogs who are redeemable, meaning dogs who are in the pound waiting for their owners. If your dog is lost, and you have our CivicMobile app, you can constantly refresh the page on the app with just a tap, to see if your dog has been found by our warden. You can check-in as many times per day as you want until you’ve confirmed that your dog has been safely found as is ready to be picked-up.”
Looking to the Future
After just one year, the Fulton County CivicMobile app had been downloaded by over 500 citizens. Having seen success leveraging the app to communicate and engage with citizens across Fulton County, Schindler speaks with excitement about her future plans for identifying even more ways the solution can become a useful tool for both county employees, and residents.
“We’re doing some targeted marketing, handing out postcards at various offices, the county fair, and adding messaging to our civic website,” said Schindler. “We’re also working with each individual department to identify additional ways to promote the app. The goal is to develop a plan for each department to use the app, because we know if just one aspect of the app appeals to a citizen, once they have it, they’ll realize how much more it offers and begin using it in even more ways.”
Schindler also has plans to develop a tutorial video that walks citizens through the app’s features and functionality and shows them how to sign-up for push notifications. Said Schindler,
“We want people to use it. The app is for our citizens. We want them to have access because it’s their information, and this is their community.”
Click below to learn more about the CivicMobile app, and how it can help you put the power of your CivicEngage website in the palm of your citizens' hands.