360 Review with Shannah Hayley, City of Plano, TX

Posted on August 10, 2015

Who doesn’t love a good ol’ fashioned performance review? ELGL loves them so much that we’re embarking on a “360 Review of Local Government.” We’re going to evaluate every single inch of the local government arena by talking to ourselves (a.k.a: other local government professionals), tech companies, journalists, professors, and anyone else who hasn’t blocked our email address.

Shannah Hayley (LinkedIn and Twitter) is the city of Plano’s director of marketing and community engagement. She has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and strategic communications. Previously, Shannah worked as director of marketing and communications for The Beck Group.



What I’m Listening to: Currently I’m crushing on my iHeartRadio Ellie Goulding Radio station

What I’m Reading: I just finished “The Art of Possibility” by Benjamin Zander and Rosamund Stone Zander. Sitting on my nightstand in various stages of completion are “Go Set a Watchman,” “Walden,” and the “HBR Guide to Finance Basics for Managers.”

What I’m Watching: 


“True Detective” and “Running Wild with Bear Grylls”

What I’m Doing: Training for my sixth marathon.

What I’m Proud of: That I’ve managed to avoid getting a sunburn this year. (As a fair-skinned strawberry redhead runner, this is more of an accomplishment than you might think!)

What I’m Thinking: I’m the luckiest woman in the world to have landed a role doing what I do best (marketing and connecting people) with my local city government.

What I’m Afraid Of:


I admit to having FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). I don’t want to have any regrets for not doing “that thing” that I always wanted to do.

What I’m Missing: My collegiate ability to nap – and for that matter, sleep in past 5:30 a.m.

What I Think About the Apple Watch: Ummm…that my husband would have a fit if I purchased a gadget that distracted me even more than I already am.

What I Want to Know From You: I’m always trying to figure out what motivates others – what is your passion and what drives you?


Describe the current state of local government. Grade?
Grade: B+
I’ve been adjunct faculty for three different universities. A “B+” grade reflects a level considered to be very good, performing above the minimum requirements with high quality work. I think that’s a fair grade for the state of local government. All too often we read the news of poor performers, when in reality many local governments are achieving tremendous things in service quality, citizen engagement and governance. But I’m a believer in the pursuit of excellence – we all have room to improve.
Best part of working in the local government arena. Most frustrating?
AAEAAQAAAAAAAAJ_AAAAJDQ3NjJhZDlhLWQ4YWItNDI3MC1iNzhjLTI4NGRhYzI5NGYzOQBest: the focus on people. After nearly two decades in the private sector, it’s extremely refreshing to start the conversation with what’s best for our constituents rather than what’s best for company objectives and profit.
Most frustrating: tempering my competitive spirit. Apparently Ricky Bobby (“If you ain’t first, you’re last”) didn’t work in local government.
Give us three areas in which local government is succeeding.

  • Leveraging technology to better serve residents. This is a growing area for many local governments, but I believe that the availability of technology at a relatively low-price point has enabled local government to use technology in new (to government) and interesting ways. Great examples include app-based wayfinding and service reporting systems.
  • Providing connection points for engagement with residents. Nearly every local government has a presence on at least one social media channel in addition to its traditional communication channels. Again, the low cost (in this case free) price point makes it an easy entry point for an alternative communication method.
  • I believe local governments are doing a great job of providing high value at a low price point. We probably don’t do as good of a job as we should/could at communicating it, but it’s amazing to me to see the sheer level of service that is provided to constituents at an exceptionally low price point. I know I spend more per year supporting my running (between gear and races) than I do on local government taxes.

Give us three areas in which local government needs improvement.
These are definitely from the perspective of someone who is very new to local government!

  • I think local government can experience decision paralysis in the effort to best serve all constituents. I recognize that’s easier said than solved!

  • Although it’s hard, I think local government needs to do a better job of resisting the urge to jump to do something without tying the decision to greater strategic efforts. One thing we focus on in within my team at the City of Plano is reminding ourselves that while there are an infinite number of great things that we can do, we can’t do a great job at an infinite number of things. We focus on answering 5 questions:

1) Is it relevant to our goals and purpose?

2) Is it realistic in terms of our capacity and resources?

3) Will it make the most effective use of our resources and capacity?

4) Can it be done in a simpler way?

5) Will it get the support needed for success?

  • While local government has come a long way in this regard, I think there needs to be an even greater focus on developing meaningful measurable metrics for any strategic effort undertaken. Without these, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of simple tactical execution of program after program without stopping to ask (or answer) why you’re doing what you’re doing.

For local government, was there any good that came from the Great Recession?
Difficult financial periods cause organizations to crater or create. I believe that through the Great Recession, local governments learned how to serve well with limited resources in order to minimize impact on constituents.
In your opinion, does local government have a lack of diversity in its workforce?
I may have a different perspective on this than many who have been in local government for a long time, but I believe local government is extremely diverse as compared to the industry that I was formerly in. It’s been wonderful to have a multitude of perspectives at the table for planning and decision-making.
Wave a magic wand – what three wishes would you grant local government?tumblr_mftv2hFCaA1ric07zo1_400

  • That citizens would completely understand the value they receive for the tax dollars paid.
  • That the local voter turnout would increase to 50% or higher.
  • The ability to say “That’s a terrible idea” out loud. J

“Innovation” is a trendy word and thrown around a lot in local government. What examples would you point to as government innovation?
What a loaded question! Honestly, I don’t think it’s possible to call local government innovative. Innovation involves risk – high risk that hopefully pays off with high reward. Working with taxpayer dollars, we can’t afford high risk. That being said, I think local government can and does embrace innovation by hiring innovative people. Innovative people think differently, a huge contrast to the “we’ve always done it that way” approach that can all-too-often characterize governmental organizations. Some examples…can I point to my own city? Plano has taken an innovative approach by hiring “outsiders” – looking for people with private industry experience to join in the efforts of serving a city well. We’re also looking at different ways to use technology to increase transparency and connection with our citizens.
Evaluate local government’s willingness to embrace new technologies.
This goes back to risk. I believe the willingness is there, but we have to be responsible to our taxpayers and spend wisely. It’s easy to make a mistake on a technology buy and invest in the wrong product. It’s a better bet for local government to be in the mid to late majority than an early adopter when it comes to technology.
What question(s) should we ask the next person that completes this questionnaire?
You asked me about the Apple watch…how about asking the next person about Amazon Prime’s Same Day Delivery Service?

Supplemental Reading

City of Plano hires new director of marketing

Plano hires marketing director

Marketing and Community Engagement


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