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Supervisor's Corner: The 'Art' of Communication and Keeping People Informed in 2020

By Webster Town Supervisor Tom Flaherty

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When it comes to "means of communicating," society has changed a lot in the past 35 years since I got out of college. I remember my awe when I first saw a fax machine send a paper memo from the office I worked at in the late 1980s in Rochester to another office 3,000 miles away in California and print it out there within minutes. Prior to the fax machine, such a written communication would have had to be USPS mailed and received 3-4 days later.  


In 2020, the fax machine is a dinosaur, and if you still use one, you are often looked upon as a dinosaur yourself! During my 30+ years in private business, I became a student of the "art of communication." It's an art, not a science, since you can never truly master it, and it is always changing. The two constants are that there is a party who is looking to communicate a message, and a party that the message is intended for. I'll refer to these two parties as the "communicator" and the "intended recipient."


As a private company CEO, I saw the intended recipients as two distinct categories: 1. the employees of the company, and 2. the customers and service providers of the company. The message content, which the company, as the communicator, sent to the intended recipient categories, was often very different. However, the means by which we communicated was not. I found that there were two genres of these means: 1. overt, and 2. passive. 


Overt was "sending the message out," such as USPS mail, phone call, text, or e-mailing the intended recipient. Passive was "putting the message out there" and the intended recipient could look at it at their leisure 24/7 such as Facebook or a website. When possible, we would try to make sure the message was sent out or on ALL overt and passive means of communication. That way, the intended recipient would have the best chance of seeing it, and actually absorbing the message based on what their personal preference was on means of consuming their news. I think this last point is critical within the "art of communication." The communicator often makes the mistake that the means that THEY like to consume their news is the way the intended recipient does, too.


Simply said... just because I may like Facebook doesn't mean the 45,000 Webster citizens in 15,000 residences in town do, too. It would be a huge mistake to tie the town government's whole communication structure to its citizens (i.e. intended recipients) to Facebook if only 1,500 of the 15,000 residences are on Facebook. We'd be communicating to 10% of the households if we did that. 


One of my goals as Town Supervisor is to maximize the overt and passive communication means that the town government utilizes to communicate with its employees and its citizens. An informed staff is a better organization, especially if ALL staff get the same message at the same time. In that same spirit, an informed community is a better community and most likely a more involved community. I'd love to see public meetings in the future have 500 people attend and need an auditorium, instead of having 10 citizens attend in our town board room.


Within this effort, we are in the process of revamping the communication structure to the 230+ employees of the Town of Webster. We are also starting the process of trying to communicate to 15,000 households in Webster. COVID-19 has shown us that we most likely hit less than 20% of those households currently on town communications through newspaper, website, Facebook, signed up for text or e-mail alerts, etc. The strategy to hit all 15,000 households will be multi-tentacled and need cooperation of ALL departments at the Town of Webster, and input from its citizens.


If you'd like to hear more on how we tentatively plan to accomplish this, feel free to e-mail me at supervisor@ci.webtster.ny.us or call me at (585) 872-7068. STAY HOME AND STAY HEALTHY, WEBSTER!

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***Please consider donating to Webster Online’s GoFundMe to keep this independently-run news site operating and Webster residents informed during these challenging times.***

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