The Town Council believes that open communication with all citizens is an important community value. The Town of Chapel Hill makes a consistent effort to be a helpful, accessible, consistent, unintimidating and human source of information; and works to assure that those served always feel welcome.


The Town enjoys a positive relationship with its citizens, conducting outreach through personal contact, at meetings, and through telephone and e-mail exchanges. Town staff members respond thoughtfully and fully to citizen questions, and Town department heads and supervisors enjoy a close working relationship with the media.


There exists a high degree of community pride among citizens and positive identification with their home in Chapel Hill. The desire to continue and enhance these feelings underlies our very basic communication efforts.


The Communications Plan works to use communications outreach as an education tool to keep the community informed about how the Town operates and the policies and procedures that are involved in that operation, and to encourage citizen participation in their local government process. It aims to meet these objectives in a coordinated, concerted and cost-effective manner. The intent of the plan is to move beyond a reactive approach that only responds to inquiries toward a proactive approach that also achieves established goals.





The goals of the Communications Program are the following:

·         Conduct a consistent public information program that regularly communicates to the public about the actions of the Council and the services provided by the Town of Chapel Hill.

·         Provide information about special events and emergency conditions.

·         Plan and conduct periodic citizen surveys to assist the Council and the Manager in evaluating the effectiveness of public services.

·         Assist other Town employees in communicating with citizens about Town programs.

·         Assist citizen groups, neighborhood associations and others in understanding Town policies and processes, and in how to be most effective in pursuing their needs and interests related to the Town.

·         Manage the Town’s use of public communication assets, including the use of the government access cablevision channel and Town web site.






A communication program built on strong themes is more effective than a program with scattered and unrelated messages. Key themes will be communicated frequently in a variety of ways, using simple, repetitive messages. Messages gain power from consistency and repetition.

Diverse communication tools will be used to deliver the following key messages:

·         The Town of Chapel Hill is an ethical, effective and well-managed government.

·         Town tax dollars are spent wisely.

·         Town staff and the Town Council are public information ambassadors.

·         The Town of Chapel Hill is an open organization, and citizens know how to access information.

·         The Town Council is addressing community priorities and accomplishing strategic objectives as outlined in the Comprehensive Plan:


- Fiscal Conditions: The Town is committed to enhancing its ability to provide services and manage its development through financial stability and fiscal planning.

- University Relations: The Town endeavors to provide an environment where the Town of Chapel Hill, UNC, and the UNC Health Care System can collaborate to maximize mutual benefits.

- Regional Cooperation: The Town engages in effective regional cooperation that promotes sustainable growth patterns, recognizing that economic development, land use, transportation, environmental, natural area linkages, and other planning issues transcend the boundaries of Chapel Hill.

- Economy and Employment: The Town works to increase employment opportunities for residents and satisfy local demand for commercial and retail services.

- Housing: The Town aims to increase the availability of well-designed, affordable, safe and sanitary housing for all citizens of Chapel Hill.

- Land Use and Development: The Town promotes orderly development and redevelopment to achieve appropriate and compatible use of land.

- Environment: The Town strives to identify, protect and preserve open spaces and critical natural areas and enhance the community’s air quality and water resources.

- Transportation: The Town values the development of a balanced, multi-modal transportation system that will enhance mobility for all citizens, reduce automobile dependence, and preserve/enhance the character of Chapel Hill.

- Community Facilities and Services: The Town provides community facilities and services that meet the physical, social, and cultural needs of Chapel Hill’s population.

- Governance: The Town makes every effort to maximize citizen participation so that Town government is representative of and responsive to the population; and to serve and govern the population in an honest, efficient, and equitable manner.




Primary Target Groups



Chapel Hill’s population is 51,485, according to the latest estimate, issued by the State for July 2003. The population count includes about 15,000 UNC students who live in Chapel Hill. The age distribution is dominated by the 15-29 age group, accounting for nearly 50 percent of the town’s population. The racial composition in predominantly white and black with those groups comprising 78 percent and 11 percent of the population. Asians make up 7 percent and Latinos account for 3 percent of the population. The population also includes residents who characterize themselves on census reports as Asian (7 percent) and Latino (3 percent). According to the 2000 Census, 27 percent of the County population had earned a graduate or professional degree, significantly higher than the statewide percentage of 7 percent. Chapel Hillians value education, and public schools here are among the best in the nation. The town has the most heavily used library in the state with per-capita book circulation at three times the state average. Our citizens treasure and pursue a diversity of thought.


News Media

Media relations are developed through personal interactions with reporters and editors, distribution of news releases and media advisories, planning and conducting news conferences and interviews, placement of stories in various media, and other methods. The Town Information Officer assists individual reporters in answering questions, responding to Open Records Act Requests, and providing sources and information, as well as proactively distributing news and information.


Prominent local media outlets in Chapel Hill are The Chapel Hill News, The Chapel Hill Herald, The News & Observer, The Daily Tar Heel, The Independent, and WCHL community radio. Media groups that report on Chapel Hill from a regional perspective are television news stations, WUNC-FM and occasional coverage by outlying markets such as Greensboro. Opportunities exist to enhance coverage from television news reporters based in Raleigh and Durham (including WRAL-CBS, Carolina 14-Time Warner, WTVD-ABC, WNCN-NBC) by informing reporters of Chapel Hill activities and issues. Effort will be made to discover new markets for Town news, especially for a growing Latino population. It should be noted that UNC-Chapel Hill brings a significant amount of positive national media attention to Chapel Hill.



The Town of Chapel Hill employs about 650 employees who work in areas that include fire and police protection, finance, planning, public works, inspections, engineering, transportation, library, parks and recreation, and housing. More than half of all employees do not have regular access to e-mail services for communications.


Other Target Groups



The following are some of the tools we use to communicate our messages:



Citizen Information and Opinion Research

Citizen Newsletter

Neighborhood Advocacy Corp

Annual Report

Fact Sheet



Fair Booth

Speaker’s Bureau
Telephone Books
Guide to Town Services
Topical Publications
Bill Inserts
Signage, Banners, Posters

Special Events

Stationery, Notepads, Business Cards, etc.

Powerpoint Presentations
Maps and Info Graphics



Media Relations

Media Guide and Assistance
News Releases, Tip Sheets, etc.
Radio Talk programs
News Conferences
Special Events


Employee Newsletter






One of the goals of our program is to build on the staff resources existing within Town departments, thus making decentralization of the communications program possible and avoiding the cost of building a large central department of communications. A decentralized communications system complements the Town tradition of operating with a spirit of full disclosure.








Coordinate and issue Town advertisements


Use interior bus posters for Town messages


Order giveaways – cups, pencils, etc.






Write and market standard News Releases


Write and market News Features that explain to citizens the policies and goals behind Council actions. Put Chapel Hill policy into national and regional perspective.
Stories include:
- Transit (Oct. 05)
- Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. (Nov. 05)
- Energy Bank (Dec. 05)
- Affordable Housing (Jan. 06)
- Environmental Sensitivity (Feb. 06)
- Neighborhood Conservation (March 06)
- Downtown Economic (Ap. 06)
- Active Living By Design (May 06)


Enhance Town exposure in media


Conduct media training for Town leaders


Organize news conferences, as needed


Organize special workshops and assist media






Reach new audiences  within our community
(emph: board and commission membership)


Develop stories for national markets


Produce brochures
(emph: New “Town Facilities” brochure)


Create a Town Hall info table at Town fairs


Write “Residents Guide to Services”
(Add: Letter from Mayor/Council)


Contribute to “Report to Citizens”


Write summaries for quart/annual reports


Organize special events


Review bilingual service needs


Make special presentations to encourage membership on boards/commissions






Write, edit monthly employee newsletter






Improve content (text, graphics) of Web


Convert TOWNweek to web page


Use Town listserv to reach citizens  


Post Channel 18 calendar items


Increase programming on Channel 18


Evaluate needs for new video


Photograph people, places, events






Establish/track communications budget


Establish graphic guidelines for use of updated Town seal/logo


Assist presenters at Council meetings


Administer Time Warner Cable franchise


Supervise cable production crew


Oversee agreement w/ The Peoples Channel


Network with PIOs from other jurisdictions


Assist other Town communicators






Research and evaluation will be conducted to assess successes and areas for improvement. Measurements may include:


·         Survey the Council

·         Surveys and focus groups

·         News release totals

·         Content of media coverage (evaluated through Town In News reports)

·         Communications and service awards

·         Responses from citizens

·         Email listserv subscriber numbers

·         Web visitors and Web analysis





This Communications Plan is presented as a guide to achieve the communication goals of the Town of Chapel Hill. Like any plan, it will need updating as circumstances change. The Communications Plan will be updated periodically based on experiences and changes in needs. The Action Plan portion of this overall guide will be rewritten on an annual basis.