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How Can Cities Build Community Media Center Partnerships?

Posted on March 1, 2021


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This article was written by Dana Healy, Executive Director of NineNorth. Connect with Dana by email or LinkedIn


As city staff, the last thing we want to hear it to “pivot” or “expand” our job functions, especially around communication. There are other ways to expand your communication efforts without overtaxing staff.

Community Media Centers in your own city are filled with technology and communication experts ready to solve your communication woes or at least enhance what you are already doing.

First, what is a community media center? A community media center is a platform for localized information, often created by community members. It is typically characterized as a television station but can be a media center with video cameras, computer banks, and sometimes advanced technology like virtual reality tools. Staff can offer training courses to residents to learn how to use communication and technology tools. Oh, and it’s a nonprofit! We love nonprofits!

How can you tap into these awesome resources? Here are a few tactics to start fostering a partnership with your local community media center.

  1. Reach out to Staff

Take the first step to reach out to the community media staff members. Aim high. Go for the Executive Director, or CEO, they have the decision making power within the organization. Ask for a sit down to learn about the mission and community initiatives.

  1. Review Policies

Some community media centers offer their services for free, some require a fee. At NineNorth, we offer a menu of specialized services for a fee. Each center is different. Familiarize yourself with the media centers policies so you can understand if their services are pro bono or not.

  1. Do a Gap Analysis

What communication needs do you have? Is the audio in your city meeting videos dropping out? Are you interested in getting your council meetings on Zoom? Do you need support around social media? Would a video about your COVID safety precautions help? Understand your own gaps to make a direct ask to the media center. A city approached CTV North Suburbs looking for social media help. Instead of hiring another staff member, they contracted services with us to provide this service. Leveraging our expertise for a nominal fee, we were able to help them.

  1. Make the Ask

Being in the community media field for nearly 20 years, I can tell you the field is full of people who want to help. Ask them if they can help you with certain communication needs. If it is aligned with their mission, they may jump at the opportunity.

  1. Have Ongoing Conversations

Stay open with your community media connection. Knowing people who have access to a television studio and video cameras may come in handy, especially in this post-COVID world. Schedule a monthly check-in phone call or email to continue to foster the relationship.

To get an idea of what a media center can do to help your city, check out some of our case studies.


 Dana Healy is the Executive Director of NineNorth and the CEO of the North Suburban Communications Commission. She leads a team of Emmy-award winning professionals that serves cities, nonprofits and government agencies looking to connect and engage with their communities through digital media. Her guiding principle is, “Don’t make videos, make an impact.” She holds two master’s degrees she earned while working full-time. Her passion is discovering and planning effective communication strategies to help municipalities reach their target audience. She also holds a third degree black belt in Karate, which she only occasionally uses in business meetings.  

Read more from Dana at the Amplify your City’s Voice: How Community Media Centers Can Help homepage.

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