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Fast Five with Cheri Collard, EGLE's new social media strategist

Cheri Collard headshotCheri Collard, EGLE's new social media strategist, joins MI Environment for this Fast Five edition on Social Media Day.

You joined EGLE in May as the department's first full-time social media strategist. Tell us a little about your background and how you started working on social media.

After graduating from Central Michigan University, I started my career in the advertising field where I had the opportunity to work on all elements within integrated marketing communications, but one of the areas that pulled me in was social media. At the time, social media was still new for business and being able to help organizations connect with audiences in a way they had never been able to before, was beyond exciting. Igniting strategic dialogue with engaging content had (and still has) enormous power, and I knew I wanted to leverage that power for the better, which eventually drew me to working for the State of Michigan. I feel very fortunate to be able to use my passion and background to serve the state I love, its residents, and its beautiful resources.

How can being active on social media channels help government agencies better communicate?

Social media creates a unique opportunity for government entities to promote constituent engagement, enhance transparency, elevate availability of services and information, and reach audiences where they are in real time. Unlike press conferences, televisions, or ads, social media allows two-way communication, an opportunity to directly interact with constituents in a more personalized and accessible way. EGLE is able to utilize social media to reinforce the department's mission of protecting the environment and public health.

EGLE has been active on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube for years. What other social media channels is the department considering?

To enhance constituent engagement, customer service and communications, EGLE is looking to expand to Facebook and eventually Instagram. In general, people who interact with the department's social media pages do not attend EGLE's public meetings or trainings and do not complete permits or reports, but they care about what's in their air, land, drinking water, lakes and rivers. Facebook and Instagram will provide an opportunity for increased two-way interaction and engagement with these audiences we usually don't engage with in other venues. In addition, these platforms will provide the opportunity to put a face to the department, share stories of our work, and create a community around our mission of protecting the state's environment and public health. Stay tuned!

What are your social media goals for the coming year?

EGLE's work can be complicated and scientific and social media presents the opportunity to break down our messages in a way that audiences can understand, relate to, and build a community around. A goal in particular I'm looking forward to tackling is leveraging social media to tell the department's story, so people understand what we do, why we do it, and how our work benefits their lives. One way we can do that is by drawing back the curtain and showing EGLE staff conducting their work to fulfill our mission. Whether it's showing field staff out conducting tests to protect our state's waters or out at a dam explaining why lowering it is necessary, showing that behind the scenes and the human side to connect with audiences in a way that's transparent, engaging and meaningful is a goal I'll be striving for.

Managing social media can be challenging as well as fun. What's the most challenging and/or fun social media experience you've had?

With so many moving parts to the mix, in the ever-changing world of social media, there isn't a day where I don't feel challenged and learn something new, but that's half the fun right?

One recent experience I enjoyed pre-COVID-19 was at the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), where I was able to visit craft beverage businesses and farms that received grant money from the department. My role was to help tell the story of how MDARD helped these businesses grow. Seeing and hearing firsthand the impact the department had for the farmers and business, and then being able to share those stories in a visual humanizing way on social media, was not only fun but something I was proud to be a part of. I look forward to continuing to share the impactful work the State of Michigan does at EGLE.

Photo caption: Cheri Collard

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