After experiencing a record snowfall earlier this January, the city of Prince George shared an important message with its residents through one of its social media channels:
"It's not our fault."
As complaints came in to city hall about mounds of powder making it difficult to drive, the city's official social media manager explained the situation with a tongue-in-cheek tone on Facebook, writing, "We would throw it back up in the sky if we could but this is not a municipal service we offer at this time."
The post went on to explain the services the city does offer, including clearing the end of driveways, and shared safety tips on navigating the snowy streets.
Residents responded with more than a thousand reactions and shares, primarily positive, with some praising the post's humourous take and conversational messaging.
And many have wondered who is behind the more light-hearted messages they've been seeing from the city recently.
The answer is Julie Rogers, who joined the city's staff last October after working for seven years as a communications specialist with the municipalities of Fort St. John and Sechelt.
She says the thinking behind her approach is that a municipal government cannot have a real conversation with people if it communicates in a language that is difficult to understand.
"When you start off with 'please be advised,' 'you are hereby notified,' it's intimidating and it's not nice," she told CBC Radio West host Sarah Penton.
"It feels like the government, and you know, as much as we are the government, we are also your neighbours."'
Other highlights include a message to dog owners to "scoop your poopsicles" from the snow.
"Come spring our parks are going to STINK," the post warned, once again garnering positive responses.
Rogers says followers and engagement on the city's social media channels have skyrocketed since they adopted the more humorous tone.
"We're really happy that we've had a positive response from the public."
Not everything is a joke, though: the city is still using straightforward messaging for issues such as budget processes and public safety, though Rogers still tries to use clear, straightforward language to make municipal issues easier for everyone to understand.
And she says if the city does something wrong, it will apologize.
"We've screwed up and we're sorry, and here's how we'll do better," she said. "That's crisis communications 101."
Rogers says most of the people who leave comments on the city's Facebook page are nice, but she asks people to stay civil in online discussions.
"You're entitled to your opinion, thanks for sharing it," she said. "Don't attack people … we're not going to please everybody."