Oak Park's social media coordinator ready to develop outreach efforts

A new kind of social director

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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

Patrick Rollens became increasingly popular when he joined the Village of Oak Park staff. He is liked more, been tweeted at, and more and more people are following him.

This may seem odd since his name isn't well known in the village yet, but anyone who has visited Oak Park's Facebook and Twitter accounts in the past week have read the new guy in town.

Rollens, a former Chicago Tribune editor for one of its Triblocal branches has joined Oak Park as the new social media coordinator. He is tasked with keeping Oak Park informed with up-to-date news and information about all village-wide happenings.

The world of social media is developing quicker than most can follow, but Rollens is not green to the technology. His personal account has sent out more than 5,300 Tweets, has 1,119 followers and follows 690 accounts. Oak Park, as of Tuesday morning, had 1,331 followers, follows 137, and its Facebook account has 3,329 "likes." Rollens would like to see Oak Park's numbers double.

David Powers, the village's communications director, had stressed the need for a staff member to keep residents informed through a village source, but even he knew an expert was needed in this role.

For Oak Park, that means more than simply disseminating information to residents; rather it's about making sure Oak Park is in tune with what its residents need and want to learn about in a two-way dialogue.

"What I like to do is let people know there is an actual human being behind the social media accounts," Rollens said. This means being receptive, not just reactive to questions and concerns.

When he took over the post Aug. 20, he stepped into the forums created by his predecessor who left a few months ago. The foundation was solid, Rollens said, but he's ready to get the accounts more active.

"Our social media efforts have been based on putting out information," he said. "Moving forward, my goal is to listen just as much."

Rollens stressed it's about interaction, not intrusion on residents. This may involve him seeking out questions people ask on Facebook or Twitter, even if not specifically aimed at the village. People don't always feel comfortable coming to the village meetings, or contacting a staff member, to express concern, but the social media sites offer a buffer that Rollens plans to work with.

"If I play my cards right, it will actually be a little fun," he said. He's looking forward to following dialogue about village issues and stepping in to offer tidbits of advice when available.

Following the Twitter timeline, seeing who is chatting around town, catching up with people posting pictures around the village — these are a few ways he hopes he can connect Oak Parkers to Oak Park.

"Hopefully I'll be able to rope in those messages by casting a pretty wide net," he said. That net may soon include the newest photo craze, Instagram, and seeing what people like on Pinterest.

Rollens wants to see how residents perceive items around town, whether it be a sporting event, village meeting, or problems on a street, in real-time data so he can keep the proper staff updated with what their residents care about most.

"[The social media sites] might be the first point of interest for people looking to move into Oak Park," he added.

Using interactive technologies to keep audiences informed, entertained and up to date is one job Rollens knows he can't ever perfect. Luckily, the news industry has made him ready to adapt to the ever-changing ways people choose to communicate.

"Try as we might, we can't have all of the dialogue take place at village hall," Rollens said. "The change is happening where the conversation is happening."

Email: anna@oakpark.com Twitter: @AnnaLothson

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Reader Comments

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Posted: August 31st, 2012 9:28 AM

See p. 20 of attached link. The Village has to catch that many more of us "doing something wrong" to pay this guy's salary. Is that what we really want? A Village that plans to fine people to fund its self-directed aims? http://www.oak-park.us/public/pdfs/Budget_Finance/quarterly_reports/2012/2nd quarter.pdf

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 30th, 2012 12:49 PM

Danny, that is very observant of you to notice that there was no information added in the story, including what this person's pay is. If meter maids are getting a minimum of 35,000.00 a year, then this talented tweeter should be in the 50 to 70 thousand dollar range.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 30th, 2012 12:47 PM

OPRFDad, this is one of the advantages of having the guy tweet things. When you are at working busy with following tweets from this guy, you will be able to know if your house was broken in to because instead of you receiving a phone call from the Police, you can get it tweeted.


Posted: August 30th, 2012 5:16 AM

OPRF dad - great insight. OP is too in love with itself to realize that change is required. Two examples - business climate and OPRF. It is like we are a middle aged man stuck in the glory days or our college career...


Posted: August 29th, 2012 9:31 PM

Can this social media dude inform people about bad stuff, like the home invasions, burglaries, strong arm robberies and other regular Oak Park occurrences, or is he just focused on happy things like doggie gay marriage? Folks, OP is just not that interesting to need a communications/social media guy. If OP were a human, it would suffer from Narcissitic Personality Disorder.


Posted: August 29th, 2012 8:25 PM

Funny Leslie, I've never heard of you. Great job!

Redundancy Director from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 5:44 PM

Carol- You just heard from the person who held the job for 5 years here in Oak Park that, contrary to your "get with the times, baby" mantra and just as I suspected, it's not a solely a social media position. Nor should it be. If you don't feel silly, you should. And speaking of the 21st century technology, I'd be far more impressed and pleased if they'd figure out how to issue night parking passes on the interwebs or with one of them new-fangled "apps" the young


Posted: August 29th, 2012 4:58 PM

Why doesn't this interview include all the contact information for this guy. Twitter, Facebook, website, etc? He is off to a great start already!

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 4:43 PM

David Powers, you need to talk with Pope, and make two more full time positions to cover the 16 hours left in each day during the week, and make 3 part time positions for the weekend. If you don't, you really are not serving Oak Park tax payers. You are denying them 128 hours of no tweeting coverage. Let's not let Oak Park fall behind the times when tweeting about stalled vehicles or the lawn is being mowed at Garfield Park during the hours of 10 to 12 today so expect a lawn mower to be there.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 4:39 PM

Reconsidering the position of tweeting out Oak Park information, this is certainly will return more useful value then what he is being paid. But we should think about this for a moment. He is only being paid for a 5 day work week, and only for one shift. What is going to happen to the other 12 hours of valuable news that we need sent to us during the week, and then there is the weekend where so many things take place in Oak Park.... Cont...

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 4:29 PM

Cont... and text about nothing that is important enough that there is a need to know right now. No one needs to find out through a tweet if their house just had a bulldozer knock it down. The people who claim government is to big, start right in your own Village and get that in order first.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 4:26 PM

Cont.. why something isn't being repaired and he can tweet back the answer he got. That should have people LTBFAO, (Laughing Their Big Fat Ass Off). If he can get in behind closed door talks with Pope, we all will know what is going to be done next, and that saves time for people trying to explain why it shouldn't at board meetings because tax payers will know the deal is already done. Biggest question to text this new guy is ask him how much he is getting paid by tax payers to seat around Cont.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 4:23 PM

Cont.. We can have this so called expert in tweeting by Powers start to keep all of Oak Park informed on how people spend their day at the Village, while tax payers are busy at their jobs earning money to pay Village employees. Give the master tweeter a Village car so he can drive around Oak Park and tweet about each streets condition. We could not only be entertained, but also informed of the condition Oak Park is in. We could tweet him back and ask him to ask the village managers.. Cont..

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 4:20 PM

Cont... " keep audiences informed, entertained and up to date is one job Rollens knows he can't ever perfect." Rollens is wrong. He can keep a lot of people entertained and gain a lot more followers if he was tweeting what village managers were doing during the day on the tax payers payroll. How many people would like Rollens after who tweets about the stalled car on Harlem, start tweeting about what the village managers are doing during the day at Village Hall? Cont...

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 4:17 PM

Cont.. to the tax payers, and it's been nice to get a news letter once in awhile from him, but how many people are involved in making that news letter? How much is this tweeter being paid so people in Oak Park can find out that Harlem avenue is blocked at Chicago avenue to move a stalled vehicle? It's not safe to read your tweets while driving, so you would need to pull over for those alerting tweets. Cont...

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 4:14 PM

David Powers, what does he do? Why did he think a guy who has done 5,300 Tweets, has 1,119 followers and follows 690 accounts makes him an expert? If he follows 690 other tweeters, when does he find time to tweet about Oak Park? I'm serious about this so think about it. If you are at work, do you have time to follow tweets during the day? If you do, you are not doing the job you are being paid for, unless you are hired to do it all day like this guy. Powers was hired to communicate.. Cont..


Posted: August 29th, 2012 4:09 PM

@Carol. I know that your "silly" comment wasn't related to me, but I have NO IDEA what this is about and so, please - in order to prevent me (and others) from being "waaay behind the times" and to not "criticize what you (me/others) don't understand" - help! Yes, I'm dumb, stupid, and ignorant....and why is everyone ignoring my plea for knowledge? How does this position further the mission of village government? Examples? Or did the Board approve this in order to not be "waaay behind the times"?

Carol from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 3:54 PM

Why would I feel silly? It's a full-time job at nonprofits and for-profits throughout the country. You just don't want to admit you're waaay behind the times. Don't criticize what you don't understand.


Posted: August 29th, 2012 3:53 PM

This story didnt make it to the VOP FB page!

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 3:49 PM

Leslie - Thanks for the info.


Posted: August 29th, 2012 3:47 PM

@Redundancy Director. After reading your post, I went back and re-read Carol's postings - where she wrote: "It is most definitely a full-time job...." But, like all of the other "this is great!" posters....doesn't tell us "what 'it' is". I repeat, why are OP tax dollars, at a time of fin'l stress (and NOT just because of declining parking ticket revenue - that IS a good thing!) and when there is little savings in OP municipal coffers...being used for his position? Is this a "need" or a "want?"

Redundancy Director from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 3:31 PM

Thanks Leslie, for not ignoring the active pulse of oakpark.com! ;) Yes, the position sounds a bit more reasonable and well-rounded as you describe it, as does the complete job title, omitted from the article: Communications and Social Media Coordinator. Looks like you had your hand in some 20th century media as well. Carol must feel a little silly insisting that social media "is most definitely a full-time job". With all respect, it still sounds like a junior position for recent grad.

Leslie Carol Boehms from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 2:39 PM

As Patrick's predecessor and an Oak Park resident, I would like to note that it is misleading to think that Patrick's role will only encompass social media. While that's a core function, he is also tasked with an extensive daily to-do list that includes assistance managing the Village website; creation, evaluation and distribution of graphics and communications materials -- including all forms -- for the Village both on and offline. In my 5.5 years at Village Hall I met and befriended many residents and learned much about their day to day lives through social media. I believe it to be an active pulse within our community and one we cannot ignore.


Posted: August 29th, 2012 2:36 PM

Consider me skeptical, but open minded. Can any of the "this is the greatest thing ever and we all need it RIGHT NOW or else Oak Park will never manage to make it to the future!!!" actually provide some examples for why OP needs to be spending $100K (salary and benefits) for this position? I think that Luke ScottWalker read my mind with his comment. Cost benefit analysis? Because, right now, this whole "social media" thing as it relates to a "buffer" or "who is chatting around town" is....?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 2:22 PM

You gotta move with the times. Social Media is a powerhouse of communications, transparency, and minds creating new ideas.

Luke ScottWalker from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 1:31 PM

I didn't realize Social Media coordinators had a union...or is this ASFCME's recruiting pitch?

Carol from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 1:04 PM

Redundancy, you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. We're in the 21st Century now in case you haven't noticed.

Redundancy Director from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 1:00 PM

Social media are tools for a communications director to do his job more effectively, not an excuse to hire someone to do his job. Honestly, after a daily tweet and status update, what is this guy going to do for the other seven hours of the work day? You want questions, you got questions!

Valerie from Chicago, IL  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 12:46 PM

Too many people view social media and marketing as an excessive or over the top cost, when actually it is one of the most vital (if you hire the right person). When Oak Park's numbers double (which they will), the community (this also means local businesses) will be benefiting as a whole. Oak Park just got cooler in my book.

Carol from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 12:33 PM

Congratulations to Oak Park for hiring a real professional to fill an essential position. To those making negative comments: you clearly have no idea what a social media coordinator does. It is most definitely a full-time job for someone with training and experience. Your kid could not do this. And you might want to learn what a sustainability coordinator and arborist do before you so wisely determine they're not needed.


Posted: August 29th, 2012 10:33 AM

Nice idea, but this isn't New York, or San Francisco, or even Boulder. Oak Park needs to drop all this superfluous stuff and focus on reading, writing and rithmetic. Unless you can tie this to a more efficient operation of the Village or increased revenue - I'd drop it.

Hank Marquardt from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 10:24 AM

Not sure anything I say here will sway those that are negative, but we all have opinions; and I'm no different. At it's simplest, the Village has hired a person who's background is communication (journalism) to communicate - I don't see that as a bad thing at all. I prefer the online channel and I developed a rapport with Patrick's predecessor and look forward to doing the same with him. This is the channel that I prefer to communicate through, so it's a touch selfish I admit -- it's served me well over time and it's nice to see the village keeping up with or even being ahead of the curve for a change ... this and the website redesign I see as positive. Yes, it all costs money, but if all you received was a 1x month newsletter for communication, you wouldn't be very happy with that either. Welcome to the fray Patrick, good luck!

Matt Baron from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 9:37 AM

I've known Patrick since he began at TribLocal and he is as responsive and professional as they come. Social media is not a frivolous expense--it's a discerning 21st century investment in being on the frontlines of communication with an increasingly large body of people who use social media in a variety of ways. I have had excellent interactions with Village Hall, including Clerk Theresa Powell and Sustainability Manager KC Poulos, and part of that communication was via social media as they helped my condo association get its voice heard by a utility that had been slow to respond to concerns. Don't be fooled by the lowest common denominator of any vehicle's use...just because some people "cruise" on Friday nights, with no particular destination, doesn't mean that the automobile, for all, is superfluous. And as for our taxes, here's a reminder that by far the biggest chunk of those funds go to our public schools, not village hall.

ryan.buchner@gmail.com from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 8:46 AM

Definitely a solid hire but excessive for a village. This is something that a commerce association should be paying for not residents. Plus, how is this a full time job? I agree that there are probably thousands of college students in marketing and the arts that would do this for free with only some change in quality.

OP Resident 482 from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 8:22 AM

We have a social media coordinator, sustainability coordinator and an arborist on staff. Last week's journal had an article indicating that the Village was considering hiring an Economic Development Coordinator. This is why our taxes are at insane levels.

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 8:00 AM

Nothing personal re Mr Rollens. I'm sure he's a good man & good at his job, but Brendan is right. There isn't a need for a paid EE to do this in a municipality of this size. You can get a college intern to do this for free. If David Powers can't be a social media expert then he needs to be replaced. If the HR director who also wants to hire more meter maids approved this position, then he/she needs to go also. Incompetence shouldn't be rewarded.


Posted: August 29th, 2012 5:55 AM

This position should be eliminated along with the sustainability coordinator. Why are we paying for this? Ridiculous.

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