There is a growing need in gov tech for skilled marketers who can engage the public, navigate the media and effectively tell stories about innovative work and those who do it. Many technologists are taking this upon themselves, often trying to learn a new skill set. Dana Berchman, however, is an exception.
Berchman is chief digital officer in Gilbert, Ariz., a growing city of roughly 240,000 residents in the Phoenix metropolitan area, and Berchman is the rare municipal tech leader who already has a background in media and marketing. This has served her well as she’s grown Gilbert’s tech engagement and social media footprint to remarkable proportions, all without hiring significant staff or increasing the budget.
Her resume includes stints as a producer/director on MTV’s True Life documentary series and as a producer/writer for MSNBC. Berchman, who grew up in Gilbert, had no government experience before coming home to take on the CDO position.
Berchman put the outreach skills she learned working for media giants to use fostering increased discourse, public engagement and marketing aimed at new residents and businesses. Her accomplishments in this capacity are many. Gilbert’s Twitter feed, for example, now has 16,800-plus followers, and a four-minute video Berchman and her team made to showcase Gilbert residents around town dancing to Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop the Feeling got re-tweeted by the singer himself, basically giving the city a free national advertisement.
To put it simply, Berchman brings a special flare and an effective practicality to gov tech, and other cities have taken notice. She regularly talks to larger municipalities wanting to know how she’s given Gilbert such a popular and effective brand (and she points them to her podcast, Government Gone Digital).
This interest has caused city leadership to jokingly worry that a larger city will lure Berchman away. That, however, is not a concern.
“I’m from Gilbert and I’m passionate about it,” Berchman said. “I’m not going anywhere, because I love it here.”
Zack Quaintance is a staff writer for Government Technology. Prior to that, he spent five years working in daily newspapers, and another five years working in the tech sector. He lives in Northern California.