Get to know Beaumont’s newest city department – Beaumont Enterprise

As part of efforts to combat misinformation online and increase transparency with citizens, the city of Beaumont has launched a new city communications team.

Currently headquartered in city hall, the city communications team is the first of its kind in Beaumont, according to Monitz. It was the brainchild of the city council and the city manager and arose from discussions held late last summer. Before the communications team came on board, each of the city’s 38 departments acted as their own mouthpiece.

“This was born out of a need. We see you and we hear you in the need for transparency, and that is 100% why this started,” said communications director Lauren Monitz. “Our goal is at the end of the day to be the primary source of information about the city of Beaumont.”

However, she added that the department still wants to empower departments to handle some of their own media requests because they’re the subject-matter experts.

“We’re really just here to be like an in-house creative department for the city and help amplify their message and streamline some of the tone,” she added.

The tone, she said, would best be described as “infotainment.” It’s a term she snagged from the New York Times, which described it as the most effective form of communication because it aims to inform in an engaging manner. So far, they’ve been working on incorporating that into their social media accounts, which they have been working on city-wide since late November.

“You’ll definitely notice the emojis kind of started, more visual attention graphics – just trying to present things less municipal and more human,” Monitz said. “So, making it professional but relatable and just striking a balance between engaging content and the necessary informational posts.”

Monitz describes her department’s job as the “middleman.” They make it their mission to learn the ins-and-outs of every city department — find out what these departments want the public to know and where there are gaps in public knowledge and provide that information to Beaumont residents.

“When we sit down with each of those departments, we will be having that conversation with them of ‘How can we best be a resource to you?’” Monitz said. “Some of them will utilize us to help manage their own Facebook channels. Some of them will have us create graphics that they can post and keep the management of that in house. We’re really keeping it flexible to each department’s needs.”

There will be three types of posts that the community will see from the department — educational, informational and recruitment-focused. These are expected to introduce people to free and underutilized city services; condense hours of public meetings to short, digestible bullet points; and make residents aware of potential job openings.

The unit is small but looking to grow. Ideally, Monitz would like to hire a public relations specialist, an in-house graphic designer and someone to manage the websites.

For now, however, the department consists of Kevin McGee, a multimedia specialist and videographer; Paige Reed, a content and social media specialist; and Hallie Gates, who works in community management. It’s Gates’ job to respond to comments on social media — and there are many.

Since they’ve come together, the group has noticed that community engagement with city pages on Facebook and Instagram has increased significantly since this time last year. But they are also working hard to cut down on the spread false information on blogs and Facebook groups. Monitz says those rumors hurt everybody.

“Honestly, one of the most interesting things I learned was any negative comment you posted about the city online actually negatively affects people visiting here, which loses dollars for the community,” Monitz said. “You never know who’s going to see that comment. It could (prevent) someone from spending money at that mom-and-pop restaurant. It could distract someone from staying at a hotel. And the visitor spending here is literally what offsets your property taxes. So, anytime you post something negative about Beaumont online, you’re actually hurting yourself, too.”

In her time so far as director, Monitz has met many people who live in Beaumont and work for the city and love it. She sees it as her team’s duty to amplify those voices.

“Our main job is to tell the stories that people don’t know,” she said. “The majority of the people we met have been here 10, 20, 30 years and they all love their job and love their place. There are a lot of people here who care and want to make it better. It is a great place to live.”




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