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Newsletter #1049: The “Lessons from Connected Cities” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

City governments are a lot like businesses. Their customers are their citizens, their product is their town, and their competition is just down the road. And some city governments have gotten creative to connect with their residents, humanize their work, and create a community.

Here are three lessons from cities in Australia, Louisiana, and Spain:

1. Trees with email addresses
2. City workers who tweet
3. Police departments on Facebook
4. Check it out: Where are the jobs?

1. Trees with email addresses

In Melbourne, Australia, trees are assigned ID numbers and email addresses. It started as a program for people to report issues like fallen branches. What they didn’t expect was a virtual guest book for the city’s foliage. People have been sending in questions about the trees, greetings from visitors, and love letters. And sometimes the city responds back. For example, when one person asked if the tree was “Mr.” or “Mrs.” Willow Leaf Peppermint Tree, they got an unexpected lesson on tree gender from the city writing as “Mr. and Mrs. Willow Leaf Peppermint.”

The lesson: What can you learn from tree-mail? Your customers want to talk to you. They want to send you feedback, say hello, and send love letters. Are you giving them every opportunity?

Learn more: The Atlantic

2. City workers who tweet

The entire town of Jun, Spain, is connected through Twitter. The mayor tweets, the city electrician tweets, law enforcement tweets, and even the school lunch lady tweets. In fact, the town’s street sweeper has become a local celebrity on Twitter. It’s allowed them to handle issues like replacing a streetlamp out in the open: Someone tweets the mayor about it, he tweets the electrician, and the electrician tweets back a photo of the fixed streetlamp. Residents say it’s about more that reporting problems though — they read the town’s tweets like they read a newspaper. It’s created a strong sense of community for them.

The lesson: If an entire town can do it, you can too. Put your work out there for everyone to see and talk about: the problems you fix, news about your company, and the mundane stuff you do every day. The more open you are with your customers, the more opportunities you have to connect with them.

Learn more: TIME

3. Police departments on Facebook

The Baton Rouge Police Department is pretty active on Facebook. They post things like important news updates and safety warnings. But their most popular posts are the ones about their employees. Every day, they salute an officer, a retired officer, or fallen officers with a short bio and some photos. And sometimes they’ll just share a piece of their everyday jobs. One of their posts about an officer’s kindness to a family in a wreck even went viral.

The lesson: People care the most about the stories that make your company human.

Learn more: Facebook

4. Check it out: Where are the jobs?

This map shows every kind of job you can find in America mapped out by where they’re located in the city and color-coded by the type of job.

Check it out: Where are the jobs?

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