Orange County Government, Florida
22 July 2016
Orange County Receives Awards for Communications and Public Information
[L-R] The Events and News and Information team of the Orange County Communications Division; (top row) Administrative Assistant Patricia Deutsch, Public Information Officer Doreen Overstreet, Assistant Manager of Communications and Digital Marketing Nadia Vanderhoof, Supervisor of Events and Special Projects Kasey Brinkley, Digital Communications Editor Whitney Ramirez, Multimedia Digital Coordinator Katarina Dos Santos, Communications Intern Lisa Kauffman, (bottom row) Senior Graphic Artist and Editor Lisa Damerst, Public Information Officer Carrie Proudfit, Communications Division Manager Ann Marie Varga and Events and Special Projects Coordinator Stephen Sperandio, gather to discuss ongoing newsroom efforts.

Orange County Government is the recipient of several awards from the Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA), the National Association of Counties (NACo), The Center for Digital Government (CDG) and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

Since being elected in November 2010, Mayor Teresa Jacobs has been a staunch advocate for citizen involvement and continues to champion broader technological advances through pioneering web, mobile applications and social media in Orange County.

“We are deeply committed to reaching a broader demographic through advancements in technology and digital media,” Mayor Jacobs said. “Our digital world moves at light speed and we recognize Orange County’s role in Central Florida’s fast paced interactive communication landscape. We are working every day to maintain and expand traditional and digital public engagement tools for our 1.2 million citizens, our agency partners and 66 million annual visitors.”

Mayor Jacobs was the first sitting mayor in Florida to feature a Social Media Ambassador program in her 2014 State of the County address. Under Mayor Jacobs leadership, and inspired by the success of the initiative, Orange County’s Technology and Social Media Workgroup was formed. The program brought together local, technology-savvy online influencers and now operates as a think-tank on emerging technologies, social media and mobile applications.

“For the last decade, the County’s news and information operation was primarily reactive,” said Ann Marie Varga, Orange County Communications Division Manager, who was appointed by Mayor Jacobs in December 2013. “In early 2014, we launched a proactive outreach program designed to reach citizens of all ages using a range of communication tools. From our innovative online Newsroom and companion OCFL News app to our phenomenal social media engagement and citizen outreach, the priorities of the Communications Division are telling the Orange County story and providing news and information instantaneously through traditional and mainstream digital platforms.”

In April 2016, Orange County won three awards at the FPRA 2016 Image Awards. Orange County received the Judges’ Award in Public Information for Outreach to Community Publications, the Award of Distinction in Special Events for Mayor Jacobs’ Walk, Ride, Thrive! pedestrian safety program and the Award of Distinction in Online Engagement for Social Media Engagement Revamp. The FPRA Image Awards competition is conducted annually to recognize outstanding public relations programs and has become a standard of public relations excellence in Florida.

In June 2016, Orange County received the NACo 2016 Achievement Award for its program titled “Digital Newsroom Media Center Transformation,” in the category of Civic Education and Public Information. The NACo Achievement Awards Program recognizes innovative county government programs.

In July 2016, Orange County was among the top 10 U.S. counties named winners of the 2016 Digital Counties Survey. The survey, conducted by CDG in partnership with NACo, identifies the best technology practices among U.S. counties, including initiatives that save tax dollars through newfound efficiencies; boost transparency, cybersecurity and engagement; or innovate through unique and exciting projects.

The PRSA Radiance Awards – which highlight Florida's public relations campaigns that demonstrates excellence in research, planning, implementation and evaluation – recognized the Communications Division in the Public Relations Product Website category for the team’s Newsroom Media Center transformation efforts.

The efforts of Orange County’s Communications Division have been recognized by respected industry trade organizations. In October 2014, the Communications Division received Ragan PR Daily’s Top Digital Award for Best Community Engagement, recognizing the groundbreaking success of online outreach efforts with citizens during Mayor Jacobs’ 2014 State of the County address. In April 2015, the group also received FRPA’s Judges Award for Audio/Visual & Online Tools of Public Relations for outreach during the 2014 State of the County.

Through the Orange County Newsroom Media Center, Orange County Government provides citizens and visitors a look at the region’s many milestones, a variety of feature stories and the latest news about the County and its leadership. Orange County’s mobile applications – OCFL News, OCFL 311, OCFL Alert, OCFL Atlas and OCFL Serves - help keep citizens apprised of the latest regional news and emergency weather alerts.

Orange County’s Newsroom Media Center was the central location for all information relating to the Pulse nightclub tragedy, including updates from the Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office and statements from Mayor Jacobs.

On June 12, a gunman killed 49 people and injured 53 others inside Pulse nightclub in Orlando. It is considered the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman and the deadliest incident of violence against the LGBTQ community in U.S. history. Still under investigation by the FBI, the Pulse tragedy is also considered the deadliest terrorist attack in the U.S. since the September 11 attacks in 2001.

Prior to the launch of the enhanced Newsroom Media Center in April 2014, the County’s newsroom was static with two to three news releases posted monthly and approximately 2,000 online page views annually. In contrast, the Newsroom Media Center received more than 710,000 online page views in 2015. During the month of June 2016, the Newsroom Media Center received nearly 117,000 online page views from citizens, national, local and international media organizations. During the same timeframe, almost one million social media accounts were reached through Orange County’s digital team.

For more information on the OCFL mobile apps and to download the apps on your Android or Apple mobile devices, visit www.ocfl.net/apps.