The typical “state of the town” address was not something Gilbert residents encountered at Thursday night’s town council meeting.
The town’s recently-formed digital media team instead produced a video depicting the up-and-coming businesses of the community, with narrations by Mayor John Lewis and council members as a replacement of the mayor’s annual traditional in-person speech.
“We saw not only the mayor’s vision, but also the business leaders’ vision,” said Gilbert resident Tracye McFarland. “It made it more personal because you got to see each one of the council members get to speak individually.”
Vice Mayor Ben Cooper added that the video clips of the council and members of the community give people outside of Gilbert a chance to see what the town is like. Usually the address can be viewed online or on local television, but in this case, the produced video was played for the audience instead of the live speech.
The process of deciding to deliver the address digitally this year began when Gilbert’s town manager, Peter Banger, was inspired by New York’s digital media department to focus on creating more digital content to inform Gilbert residents, said Chief Digital Officer Dana Berchman.
The past year has been a process of incorporating newer technology including social media, Berchman said. Gilbert’s digital media team has been utilizing video releases instead of conventional press releases, for example.
Instead of standing behind a podium and talking for an hour, Lewis came up with the idea to create a video that had input from the council and interaction with Gilbert residents, Berchman said.
“Mayor Lewis takes a very inclusive approach,” said recently elected councilman Jared Taylor. “He is a great speaker who wants to bring everyone together.”
The availability of videos of town meetings and other information online is helpful to the community, Taylor said. The on-demand format is especially useful for new residents who need to learn more about the town.
The shooting for the address began in early December and resulted in the 22-minute video, Berchman explained. Making a video for the town sounds like an easy job, but the effort and details that went into it were not small tasks, she said.
Getting Gilbert residents to come to events, such as town council meetings, has proven difficult in the past. The solution for informing Gilbert residents more easily and efficiently is making information readily accessible, Berchman said.
“If it’s digital, they don’t have to come,” she added.
Watch now: Gilbert State of the Town