City Communications Need More Work
First of all, inquiring minds want to know exactly how the “shared services” agreement with the school district is working. Is it an informal, ad-hoc thing or are the hours and fees spelled out and documented? And how can just one person do all that work? Are there helpers?
On closer observation, the material on the web site has been enhanced with meeting dates for the City Council, Planning Board and Zoning Board, but all three are on a City Council link, even though the land use boards are free-standing entities separate from the governing body.
The mayor’s photo has finally been cropped but there is still no bio with her information. Martin Hellwig is still pictured in a T-shirt and Jennifer Wenson Maier in a tank top. There is no photo of the third department head, Douglas Peck.
I’m sure the Needler in the Haystack will do his own analysis of the utility (or lack thereof) of the upgraded city web site, and I’m equally sure this is not the finished product. But readers are right to inquire about the cost and how much other money is being thrown at communication functions of the city. Another “shared services” deal will bring on PMUA resources to augment the city’s PR efforts, and a consultant was hired months ago to help shape up Channel 74.
Public relations and communications are broad headings that assume those hired have a spectrum of skills, ranging from being able to write proper press releases to developing mailing pieces or handouts with photos, graphics and engaging text. Residents nowadays expect web sites with downloadable forms for common needs such as permits, and consistent information for various city departments in order to better understand the workings of government. The city’s local origination cable channel also needs people with specific expertise to make it effective.
Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs has asked for an expansion of the communications staff. Consultants have been hired and partnerships formed with other official entities. Still, not all bases are being covered adequately. Meanwhile, one member of the city team is also operating his own media enterprises and takes photos at weddings conducted in City Hall.
Maybe the management needs to decide its goals and priorities for communications and public relations and to make sure the right team with the needed skills is in place. More than half the sand has run out of this administration’s hourglass. It’s time to take stock and shape up for the remainder of its term.