Reflecting on 6 Years in Local Government Communications

Posted on January 2, 2018

Sparkle Anderson is the Director of Communications for the City of Pearland. In this position, she handles public relations, e-marketing, social media, internal communications and advertising for the City, while providing graphic support for City programs and services. Sparkle documents her experience as a local government communicator on this website.

Next Tuesday, Jan. 9, will mark 6 years of employment with the City of Pearland. As I look back on the past six years, I reflect fondly on my work and how drastically, the Communications Department, and more importantly, I have changed over the years. The true test of success is  if you have made a place better than when you started, and I can safely say that the City of Pearland Communications Department is better than when I started. I don’t say this to brag, but, I say this as a testament to what hard work, dedication and drive can do.
For years now, I have served as a member of the Senior Leadership Team providing direction and vision to shape City of Pearland communications. That vision has resulted in the receipt of more than 30 local, regional and national awards. When I think of the six years of utilizing my analytical skills to diagnose and devise viable solutions to business problems, I can’t help but be proud. The development of communications plans tied to City initiatives such as “Don’t Block the Box,” Fire and Police Department recruitment and the Waste Management Route Change, have truly been some of the highlights of my work.

The launch of two new City websites with more than 800 pages of content; Pearnet, an employee intranet, designed to improve employee communications and further employee engagement and the oversight of the installation of video equipment that allows for recording and live streaming of both City Council and Planning and Zoning Meetings and the development of City of Pearland Brand Identity Guidelines are some of my accomplishments over the years.
When I first came to Pearland, City Departments had a variety of marketing collateral without a unified voice or common look and feel. Building from the brand knowledge that I acquired from my time at both CenterPoint Energy and Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star, I focused on enhancing the brand by developing guidelines to ensure that every communications piece produced by a City Department met established quality standards. While not always the most popular because of my efforts to track down collateral pieces that did not meet brand standards and redo them, I worked diligently towards the goal of ensuring quality communications.
In my time working for the City, I have revamped the offerings provided on Pearland TV. When I arrived, Pearland TV was a rotating slideshow with limited video. I researched and supervised the installation of a new operating system and worked to find additional avenues of which the City could provide video offerings to residents. Now, the City receives video from multiple sources and has an on-staff Videographer/Editor. And, soon, with the completion of the City Hall remodel, we will live stream directly to social media and have our very own studio, which in itself will allow for even more programming opportunities.
In six years, I have created, defined and advanced the City’s social media presence. Prior to my arrival, the City of Pearland did not have asocial media presence. I created each one of Pearland’s six social media pages with targeted messaging for residents. It always makes me laugh when community partners request use of our social media pages to promote their programs/services because I know that it wasn’t long ago that we didn’t have those outlets and it also speaks to the success of our social media presence. In the past two years, I completed an in-depth social media audit, which provided tangible insight that will now take our social media platforms to new heights.
Emergency communications is also something I can now think about. Hurricane Harvey was one of the first real tests of communicating in an emergency that I had with the City. And, while there is always room for improvement, overall, I believe that the City of Pearland Communications Department was well equipped to communicate with residents because we had all the tools, an emergency communications plan and trained staff in place.
When I first joined the City, I had one direct report, but, now, I have four. I’ve watched as the Communications Department staff have gone from providing limited marketing and communications support to now serving in fully functional communications generalist roles. Not, only has the department grown, I have grown, and that growth is reflected in my completion of the program at Texas Christian University’s, Bob Schieffer College of Communication to become a Certified Public Communicator. The output of the program is a 3-year strategic communications plan that has guided the direction of communications for the City.
And, more recently in the receipt of my Accreditation in Public Relations. To achieve the APR certification, public relations professionals must be seasoned professionals with five or more years of public relations experience and pass both a two-hour oral presentation panel and a four-hour computer-based examination administered by the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB), which is an alliance of eight national and statewide professional associations dedicated to furthering the field of public relations and the development of public relations professionals.
So, it’s been a long, but successful six years and one can only guess what the next several years will bring, but, I am certainly up for the task. Cheers to six years and the path forward.

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