In 2006 and 2007, residents and visitors were very interested in an intense period of policy-setting. Town officials received numerous requests for copies of the agendas and minutes from council meetings. Even though the city kept its Web site up to date, a citizen began excerpting the information regarding the development from the site and e-mailing it to concerned residents. City officials quickly realized the value of distributing city information via e-mail.
Council decided an online newsletter, or an e-newsletter, would be both economically and environmentally friendly to the city and allow a wider distribution of information. They also hoped an e-newsletter would attract more traffic to the city’s newly updated Web site.
Staff created three distinct e-newsletters. The first is geared toward residents and features meeting notices and records. The second is solely for those interested in recreation opportunities in the city. The third targets island visitors who may need to know about amenities and regulations. Using a few hours of staff time, city staff send the newsletters out at least monthly.
The response has been positive. In just over a year, the mailing list grew from 101 subscribers to 1,543. Citizens feel included in their local government and appreciate the transparency the e-newsletter provides.
The city has been pleased with the results, too. Officials have discovered the e-newsletters are an effective way to disseminate important and sometimes urgent news. While the city updates its Web site every day, citizens might not be aware of important meetings, cancellations or closures if they are not in the habit of checking the site daily. The e-newsletter gives the city a vehicle to deliver crucial information in a way that will almost assuredly be seen.
Isle of Palms officials have found an innovative and efficient way to communicate with interested residents. The e-newsletters have created more informed citizens and better equipped officials. This new dialog will prove vital as the island continues to grow.