Saturday, June 23, 2018
News Roundup

Treasure Island adds humor to info

TREASURE ISLAND — It's a call from City Hall about trash pickup changes, but it leaves people chuckling.

"Let's talk trash," a computerized voice announces.

Another message warns city residents headed to the John's Pass Seafood Festival to expect traffic delays and advises "stay calm, enjoy the seafood and think of my soothing voice if you get frazzled."

Jeff Jensen, public information officer for Treasure Island, is the author of the oftentimes humorous calls about everything from sewer maintenance to drainage issues.

He spices up the public service messages to get residents' attention.

"It doesn't have to be government gray," Jensen said. "There can be some polka dots, too."

When Jensen started working for the city in 2003, he started putting his creative touches on city communications by drawing on his 20 years of experience as a rock and roll radio DJ.

"You had 30 seconds on the air to get your point across," he said. "You have to figure out ways to cut through the clutter."

He started with the city's electronic newsletter by adding a bit of humor here and there.

Then in 2013, the city started using an electronic messaging system provided by FirstCall. Residents could sign up to receive emails, phone calls or texts about alerts and emergencies involving government services and city events.

"One time I thought, I wonder what it would sound like to say 'Ta ta for now' at the end of the message," he said. "So I added it and people told me they really liked the ending."

The service is now provided by Code Red and city department heads who need to get the word out about things like water outages, traffic issues or severe weather give Jensen the basics and he creates the message.

"They usually say, 'Let's run it by Jeff, maybe he can make it flowery,' " Jensen chuckled.

His boss, Information Technology Director Mark Santos, credits Jensen with using his personality and wit to dress up what normally would be drab public service announcements and turn them into snazzy messages that attract attention and keep people listening.

"He is the voice of Treasure Island," Santos said. "People will read or listen to him."

Knowing Jensen's talent with words, Santos said he has always given him free rein to craft messages.

"We've never had a complaint," he said.

Jensen said he knows it could be easy to cross the line and fall into the trap of trying to top himself.

"We don't want to become a comedy service," he said. "The whole point is to get the message out and try to make it stand out in the clutter."

Even City Hall workers get a kick out of Jensen's messages.

"I've watched when people get the messages on their cell phones at City Hall. They keep listening and then smile when they get to the punch line," Santos said.

Using the electronic service does have its drawbacks, Santos said. The computerized voice sometimes mispronounces words. But Jensen has used the flaw to create some fun.

At the end of one recent notice about the Isle of Capri, Jensen noted the computer voice's mispronunciation of Capri (it said Cap-reye instead of Cap-ree).

"Did I just say that?" he quipped.

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