Salt Lake City is a Trailblazer

Salt Lake City is a Trailblazer in how it listens and responds to residents.


Salt Lake City gives residents and constituents the ability to interact with their local government in real time, and that has become even more important with the COVID-19 crisis.

“During this time, especially, we are striving to answer questions, involve the public in the decision-making process, and give everyone the opportunity to let us know about issues they're facing,” said Elizabeth Buehler, Civic Engagement Manager for Salt Lake City. 

Salt Lake is the largest city in the region within a six-hour drive, and, thus, is often expected to act first and lead the tone for those who live within and outside city limits. This means teams like Buehler’s have to think about the unique demographics of the community, as the staff “tends to be the test-bed for new processes and new technology, showing others what can be done based on our firsthand learnings and experiences,” said Buehler.

Salt Lake City listens to respond to issues fast.

Like many communities around the nation (if not the world), Salt Lake City’s first-hand experience has resulted in making tough decisions that impact people’s lives, and protect the health and well-being of its residents. The team had to transition many in-person events/meetings to digital experiences, prioritize funding or PPE resources for certain functions or groups of people, and move to have the community shelter in place. 

“The nature of this virus has forced us to act fast on late-breaking information, which means we have to find a way to judge the temperature of our constituents, and engage them in the conversation as we take action on advice from health experts,” said Buehler. “We have to maintain the level of trust we have with our residents and constituents while also keeping people safe.” 

Buehler and team needed a way to listen to every question asked over every channel, and reach back out with a real, concrete answers fast.

An agile approach to communications is applied.

The team deployed an outreach and engagement platform on Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud. It gives Salt Lake the tools to not only disseminate information out to the public, but also to listen, respond, and act on the insights and comments the city receives in return.

Marketing Cloud’s Social Studio gives Salt Lake social listening tools, which they use to monitor a number of topics across a number of handles run by various departments across the city. Visual summary tools, like word clouds and leaderboards, give users a way to pick up on and engage in newly trending conversations, while topic profiles — a caching of key words and hashtags use in social commentary — recap status or sentiment on well-known discussions.

The team uses this to expand their real-time understanding of public opinion and make decisions accordingly. “As city leadership was contemplating whether or not to issue a stay-at-home, shelter-in-place order, we set up our first topic profile so that our communications director could see how this was being received by the public,” said Buehler. “She was able to see that the sentiment was overall positive — that the majority of Salt Lake would welcome a shelter-in-place order given the circumstances — and was able to include that data and insight in her briefings to the mayor.”

Social Studio also gives the city a number of publishing tools, which Buehler and team use to push announcements and updates across their handles and channels — an especially critical capability when instructions, protocols, and guidance are changing quickly as we become more knowledgeable on the virus. Answers to FAQ, hotline information, and more can also be scheduled using Social Studio’s calendar function, giving the team a way to keep “need-to-know” information handy.

Buehler and team worked with their implementation partner, MTX, to launch this platform in just one week.

Gathering and acting on public sentiment is just the start.

Outside of COVID-19 specific topics and execution, Social Studio has also started to help the city move on a few project management and development initiatives. The team used topic profiles to learn how residents feel about a new park project being considered by the city, and are making decisions with the public’s sentiment in mind. They are also leveraging Social Studio’s ability to integrate with the city’s Service Cloud instance to incorporate more social context into case profiles, bringing phone, email, and social inquiries together into a single platform with a single view.  

“This streamlines our processes. For example, someone on Facebook tells us they have a pothole on their street and asks us to come out and fix it. Before, that had to go through a whole separate chain to get it officially in our system and issue a work order,” said Buehler. “But now, we integrating that into our CRM so that all we’ll have to do is click a button to bring any and all inquiries into a central queue. This will help us document, prioritize, address, requests in a way that is fair and transparent.”

“Any way you can expand your reach — expand how you're listening to your constituents — and centralize how you push messages out will really help in times like this as well as when business returns to normal,” said Buehler. “Because simplifying operations in an all-digital environment helps you pinpoint quick wins, identify patterns, and establish best practices for the future.”


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