Expanding Public Health Communications Through a Dynamic and Innovative Website Redesign

State: GA Type: Neither Year: 2016

Cobb & Douglas Public Health is located in the Metro Atlanta area, with locations in both Cobb and Douglas counties.  The population for both counties combined is close to 865,000. In FY2012, the Communications Team of Cobb & Douglas Public Health (CDPH) began development of a Strategic Communications Plan that would not only fulfill national Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) requirements, but would provide effective public health messaging with demonstrable results. The plan was developed by considering both the needs of internal (staff) and external customers, with the primary objective of providing critical and helpful information on public health issues that would promote positive lifestyle choices and protect the health and safety of the residents of Cobb and Douglas counties. A “GO Team,” consisting of eight cross-representational members of the CDPH staff, was assembled to lead the charge to improve marketing and communications efforts.  The scope of work was to rethink, re-conceptualize, and reinvent the CDPH brand identity.  The ”GO Team” began by collecting data from several internal and external focus groups, on the health department’s mission, vision, values, and types of services provided by CDPH. An assessment of the health department’s communication brand’s strengths and challenges provided further insight to develop the new brand strategy.  CDPH then partnered with 524 Creative, an award-winning marketing firm, to help with the overall brand strategy. The Cobb & Douglas Public Health signature consists of two components. The “Working Together Mark,” the graphical element that captures the essence of CDPH. And the new logo type, “Cobb & Douglas Public Health.” The logo may be used with or without the tagline “Healthier Lives. Healthier Community.” Both elements combine to modernize the logo in a professional, dynamic and bold way. It distinctly differentiates CDPH from other health departments and reflects the high quality of health services that are offered. “Working Together Mark” Each section represents one of three primary areas of focus: promotion, protection and prevention. All services CDPH provides are representative of one or all of these components. The design also conveys a spirit of cooperation, representing the connection of residents with the resources they need and working with government agencies, businesses, education providers, other health providers and the community. “Cobb & Douglas Public Health” CDPH is recognized as the leading public health provider in Georgia, striving to protect residents, prevent disasters and accidents, and promote health and well being. The logo type connects individuals, organizations, and the community to keep them safe and healthy. Font treatment in grey, provides stability, is neutral and grounding. Clean, bold san serif font is easily read and used on a variety of media. Together with the color palette, the new corporate identity reflects the professionalism and high-quality health services that CDPH provides each and every day. One of the key components of the Strategic Communications Plan was to also increase and improve the agency’s visibility in the community through a full-scale redesign of the CDPH website,  With the continued help of 524 Creative, CDPH was able to develop, design and produce a website that appropriately defined the organization’s mission and vision.  In FY2013, CDPH launched an innovative and user-friendly website that effectively met the outcomes of the project and delivered results. The CDPH Strategic Communication Plan has demonstrated its effectiveness in several ways, most notably, a sharp increase in the average number of web visitors per month from 16,127 in FY2014 to 20,061 in FY2015.  Prior to the launch, web visits averaged around 10,500 each month. The CDPH website continues to be successful for several reasons.  The CDPH website: Is bold, unique, and includes the necessary tools to make patient care and visits more efficient, including Clinical and Environmental Health forms that can easily be downloaded;  Is responsive to the needs of the community by addressing pertinent public health topics to reduce chronic disease, by providing healthy tips, and by providing information to increase access to health services; Conveys a professional image that CDPH serves as a trusted resource for public health information and services; Reflects a new identify and promotes messages that are relevant to clients, partners, and constituents; and Is a user-friendly interface with simple and intuitive navigation that is comprehensive, yet an efficient resource for customers and staff. As a result of the CDPH Strategic Communication Plan and its implementation, public health’s impact in the Cobb and Douglas communities continues to get stronger.  The increase in the number of website visitors by close to 90 percent over the past two years is a clear indication of this.      
Cobb & Douglas Public Health serves both Cobb and Douglas Counties in northwest Georgia. Both of these suburban counties are within 20 miles of the state’s capitol in Atlanta, Georgia.  Cobb County spans 340 square miles and includes the municipalities of Acworth, Austell, Kennesaw, Marietta, Powder Springs, and Smyrna.  Douglas County is one of the smallest in the state with just under 200 square miles and includes the City of Douglasville.   According to the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), the total population of Cobb County in 2015 is 727,600 and the total population of Douglas County is 137,400.                          The sociocultural environment is primarily Caucasian, making up 67 percent of Cobb County and 55 percent of Douglas County.  African Americans make up an additional 26 percent of Cobb County and 40 percent of Douglas County.  The remainder of the district population is a cultural mixture as the foreign born population of both counties has risen significantly over the last 10 years. CDPH ensures proper language resources are in place to meet the needs of the community we serve. The goal of the CDPH Strategic Communications Plan was to aggressively make the community aware that in addition to providing exceptional, cost-effective health services, the organization keeps the entire community safe and healthy in ways unrealized by many. CDPH prevents the spread of disease, protects us from environmental threats, leads emergency preparedness and response efforts, and serves as a trusted resource and essential community partner.  It became obvious that the first Communications objective was to focus on redesigning the website since this was the main means of communications between CDPH and the public. After a comprehensive RFP bid process, Cobb & Douglas Public Health partnered with 524 Creative, an award-winning advertising and marketing agency in Marietta, Georgia, to revamp the CDPH website. The initiative began by defining key messaging and identifying target audiences and messages. CDPH and 524 Creative conducted multiple focus groups and interviews to solidify the website’s promise, value proposition, personality and overall goals. In FY2013, CDPH launched a brand new, innovative and user-friendly website that had a more contemporary “look and feel” with options that would respect the CDPH brand.  The redesign met the goals of the project and delivered results. Some of the unique features of the website include: Extensive use of the CDPH brand, including the logo and tagline (which does not follow typical health department branding); Scrolling sliders on the home page featuring several important CDPH programs; Banner Notification capabilities which are used when needed to relay important messages at the top of each web page;  Eye catching home page design, with good eye-flow; Front page access to key CDPH programs by using contemporary photos and icons; A language translation tab which has the capability to translate each page to fifty different languages; An easy to navigate Career Center, with the ability to apply online; A Newsroom section complete with a “Speakers Bureau” portal and a CDPH “In the News” page; Current Cobb & Douglas County restaurant scores for easy access by all residents;  A fillable “Contact Us” form; and a fillable “Epidemiology Data Request” form; A built-in map component which includes service hours and information for all eight CDPH locations.  
Goal:  To develop a Strategic Communications Plan that gets results. One of the key components of the plan was to redesign the existing website with the goal of increasing and improving visibility in the community.  In FY2012, Cobb & Douglas Public Health partnered with 524 Creative, an award-winning advertising and marketing agency in Marietta, Georgia, to redesign the new site. After collecting data from several focus groups which included both internal staff and external partners, CDPH and 524 Creative were able to develop a website that appropriately defined the organization’s mission.  In FY2013, CDPH launched an innovative and user-friendly site that met the outcomes of the project and delivered instant results.  Community partners not only acted as members of the focus groups, but they also shared and continue to share links, stories and ideas, as well as their feedback regarding the website.  Many partners, such as the County Governments, Public School Systems and Chambers of Commerce, have active links on their own pages to drive their web visitors directly to the CDPH site for critical public health information. Several community partners also offered their support by producing program videos at no cost to CDPH.  These videos are posted on the website and feature several CDPH programs. They range anywhere from five to 30 minutes in length and are valued at up to $10,000 per video. Additionally, many partners, students and residents frequently visit the CDPH website because of the prominent posting of our Community Health Assessment data. This data is used for a number of community agency action plans and for student research. The budget for the website redesign was $20,000. The cost to maintain the website is budgeted between $2,500 - $5,000 per year. This includes hosting costs and any back-end or emergency maintenance items that may arise.  It is important to note the majority of the website is updated daily by the CDPH Communications Team thorough Word Press, a well-known website authoring tool.   
Objective:  One of the key components of the plan was to create a new state-of-the-art website which included a full redesign and redevelopment, with the goal of increasing and improving the visibility of CDPH in the community and increased utilization by residents.   The objectives were achieved because the CDPH website visits have increased considerably since the launch and in comparison to visits prior to the launch. The average number of web visitors per month increased from 16,127 in FY2014 to 20,061 in FY2015.  (Note: The month the new website went live in FY2013, the site received 10,626 visits.) Evaluation Method: After the hard launch of the CDPH website in FY2013, Google Analytics was chosen to monitor the traffic on the website.  Each month the Director of Communications pulls the data and shares the numbers with the CDPH Leadership team, the CDPH supervisors, as well as many CDPH external partners.    
The Strategic Communications Plan has proven to be a success and it continues to expand!  The CDPH website is not only innovative and user-friendly, but it meets the goals that were set for the project.  It delivers solid results and its sustainability remains very strong. The number of website visitors continues to trend upward each year.  In FY2013, a baseline number of 10,626 was captured.  In FY2014, CDPH saw a strong increase from the baseline number of 10,626 to 16,127, and then another impressive increase in FY2015 to 20,061.  The CDPH Communications Team is also monitoring the “Top Visited Web Pages” on a weekly basis.  For the week of October 19-26, 2015 (not including the home page), the Locations & Hours page posted 527 visits, the Contact Us page posted 486 visits, the Vital Records page posted 366 visits, the Career Center page posted 329 visits, the Services page posted 310 visits and the Restaurant Inspection Scores page posted 255 visits. While the website was originally developed with the help of an external consultant, the CDPH Leadership Team Members and CDPH Supervisors received training to update their sections of the website. The CDPH Communications Director monitors the entire in-house process, which has reduced future costs that would be incurred by an external vendor. CDPH recommends that health departments examine communication branding and messaging strategies to promote public health awareness and meet the needs of the communities they serve.  Annual website maintenance budget: $2,500- $5,000 per year. What’s next for In FY2017, the Communications team will be working with 524 Creative to make some key updates to These updates will include adding new design features, adding new pages and also merging some existing pages where it makes sense.  Several additional Social Media links, such as Instagram and LinkedIn, will also be added to complement the social media platforms that are already in place.
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