City Trees

March/April 2011

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President’s Message Doug Still I just saw the movie “The Social Network” about the beginnings of Facebook and the power of social media. A fascinating flick, it reminds me of my recent efforts to promote my forestry program using Facebook and other new web-based programming. How do I strike a bal- ance between the tremendous ben- efits of interactive technology—like increased reach and connectivity with the public—with potential pitfalls? Are my concerns real, or am I just stuck in the mud? Questions abound. Public requests for service now come to my office in many ways. “Traditional” methods such as phone calls (still #1), letters (rarely), and email (that’s right, it’s becoming quaint!) are now supplemented by the City website’s 24- hour communication link, as well as two community-based websites that report citizen issues to government agen- cies. These community websites allow someone to report problems with mobile devices, including maps and pho- tos, and track the City’s response via an open forum for anyone to see. Unfortunately, a name is not required from constituents, only an email address, creating anonymity. My responses are altered (and rightly so) when I respond to a constituent publicly rather than one-on-one. I try not to alter management decisions because complaints are aired loudly and publicly by tech savvy residents, but it’s tricky. It’s unclear if we’ve gained transparency and immediacy at the expense of the human touch. Setting up a Providence Forestry Facebook page also brought up a host of questions. A great way to talk up your program and recruit volunteers, right? But before an “organization” page can be created on Facebook, a personal page is required. You are not allowed more than one. How do you separate the professional from the per- sonal? How do I keep my privacy? This takes careful fig- uring out. Will occasional tree disputes play out publicly? Local news sources have access to Facebook, too. Will postings coordinate with your city’s press officer, who has tight control over public messaging? When is it just TMI (too much information)? Ultimately, social media provide tools to market the ben- efits of trees and build support. But public relations skills are more important than they’ve ever been. As we gain experience with changing technology, our “connectivity” with SMA can only help. We’ll sort through this together I’m sure, either on the SMA listserve or Facebook page. Please share your thoughts—I look forward to chatting with you in cyberspace! Executive Director’s Message Jerri J. LaHaie The Power of Membership Last issue I addressed the value of membership. Now I want to discuss a related issue, the power of mem- bership. Hopefully you are already convinced that SMA membership is a great value. You know the mem- bership benefits, you believe in belonging to a professional organi- zation, you are networked with your peers. But how does SMA membership empower you as a municipal arborist/ urban forester? In these challenging economic times, it is more impor- tant than ever that we build our network of the family of professionals who create and sustain community forests. This year we have broadened our membership catego- ries to include members of affiliate organizations such as non-profit groups and state councils. We have also created a municipal category which allows cities with multiple personnel to join at a group rate, making it more economical for three or more to join under this category. By broadening our membership, we not only speak with a louder voice, but also with a united voice. By having SMA members in every community, we have a valuable resource of on-the-ground professionals who can provide real-life experience and who have a unique understanding of municipal forestry. Imagine an organization that has a member in every com- munity—in the U.S., in Canada, in Australia, in the United Kingdom and Ireland, in the world—a member who is or has been actively engaged in urban forestry at the com- munity level. How powerful would it be to have that kind of resource, where any type of situation involving trees in a municipal setting had most likely been dealt with already, where expertise gained through experience is shared across boundaries? How empowering would it be to belong to an organization like that? Who do you know in your community who would benefit from SMA membership? Have you encouraged colleagues in your own department to join? Members of your state council, your local tree non-profit, or your counterparts in the planning or parks departments? Have you talked to them about the power of belonging to an organization whose strength lies in the value of each member and in the sharing of knowledge and experience? If every SMA member reached out to just one other person who should be a member, our membership would double in size, but the value of SMA membership would be immeasurable. Building a bigger and stronger SMA—now that’s empower- ing for every member. 5

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