A little over a year ago, the City of Edmonton launched its official blog, called Transforming Edmonton. Though it launched as a pilot project, the blog was meant to be another vehicle for the City to “share stories about how the City is working on transforming itself.” It remains focused on the City’s Vision and Strategic Plan, with sections on Economic Diversity, Environment, Financial Sustainability, Livability, Transportation, and Urban Form. How successful has the City of Edmonton’s foray into the world of blogging been? Let’s look back at the blog’s first year.
Let me start by saying that any blog that has made it past three months and is still updated somewhat regularly can probably be described as a success! Blogging takes commitment, so I applaud the City for sticking with it. Jas Darrah, Communications Business Partner at the City of Edmonton, was nice enough to answer my questions about the blog’s first year.
Over the last year, a total of 87 entries were posted to the blog. That’s not far off from the original goal of two new posts per category per month (which would have resulted in 144 posts). Though there are approximately 40 registered authors in the system, Jas clarified that in reality up to 100 people have collaborated on the resulting posts, as Public Information Officers and subject matter experts have worked together to craft the content. Initially, a lot of effort went into recruiting City employees to contribute to the blog, but that has become less necessary according to Jas. “The desire to participate from business units across the organization grows weekly, while in the first months we were beating the bushes to get participation.”
The blog has averaged 2400 page views per month over the year, which is respectable but quite a bit less than I expected. Of course, page views are just one piece of the puzzle. There’s also RSS feed readers (that’s how I read the blog), people who read the entries on Facebook, or who see the entries on YouTube, etc. And keeping in mind the City’s goals for the blog, engagement is a better metric than traffic statistics anyway. Slowly but surely, they’re having some success in that area. The blog has received 157 comments over the year, primarily on the two most successful posts: Bob Boutilier’s Q&A post on The Way We Move, and Phil Sande’s Q&A post on the City Centre Redevelopment Project. Jas says we’ll see more of those kinds of posts in the future.
Jas told me the blog is still being classified as a pilot, because the City is still gathering information to help evaluate it. I don’t think the public perceives it as a pilot however, and it sounds like City employees are happy for the blog to continue as well. Jas said the City’s “communications teams now see this as another vehicle to offer the City business units to reach out to the community, while offering ways to experiment with multimedia.” Many posts recently have included video and photos, such as the series on the Heads Up! campaign. While it may be just another tool in the communications arsenal, Jas confirmed the blog is “one of the most cost-effective tools in our toolkit.”
I’m a big fan of the Transforming Edmonton blog, and I’ve mentioned it numerous times in social media presentations over the last year. The design is clean, and I particularly like the simple Comment & Trackback Policy, accessible on every page. Jas said he’d regard the project as a success, even though there is still a lot of work to be done.
Raffaella Loro (the blog’s primary instigator) told me before the launch last November that she saw the blog as “encouraging a cultural shift” in the way the City operates. A year later, I think that is happening. Jas noted that “our City leadership saw that any negative comments that this project may facilitate would be outweighed by the positive reputation for facilitating those comments.” City employees like the blog as a way to share information, and according to Jas, many thought the blog was only internal when it launched! He told me the City will be launching its first internal blog in January.
I’d say the Transforming Edmonton blog has had a successful first year. There’s lots of room to grow and improve, but there’s now a strong foundation in place. I look forward to seeing it evolve.
A follow-up thought: I think the blog can become an important archive of the City’s perspectives over time. In the spirit of digital archiving, here’s what the blog looked like as of December 6.