Communication: Let’s clarify some things

Mayor's Office, News

I want to cover a “hot button” topic right now: communications, including our administration’s resource for it, the cost and benefits of providing information and transparency to you. I said if elected, many governmental services would be run differently, new resources would be brought in and new areas of focus would be put into place to help elevate Martinsville and improve your quality of life.

We established an administration built on five building blocks: safety, neighborhoods, economic development, communications and citizen voice. Notice the fourth building block is communications.

Knowing we had a large gap to fill (minus a few news releases here and there in the past), we needed an experienced professional who could provide our team with the counsel, knowledge and expertise to fulfill the promises made to provide strong, consistent, quality communications.

Communicate has been on board since day one of our administration more than two years ago. In all this time, the two city councilors expressing concern over the cost have only done so recently.

A communications resource is no different than other consultants we work with such as legal, financial and engineering in that Communicate provides us with expertise and experience we don’t have in-house. Our team has their own skill sets that fit their roles; consultants provide supplemental expertise. And by the way, consulting work is not “part-time” or “full-time”, but is done on a contract basis.

Working with myself and our department heads, Communicate has provided quality assistance with our State of the City presentations, 200-Day Plan, Carol Jenkins Davis remembrance event, Sonny Miller dedication ceremony and provided the complete rewrite of our City Web site. In addition, we have issued more news releases, proclamations, statements – and these newspaper columns – than ever before. Through this work, we want you to know what is happening in your community, how you can get involved and how your hard-earned tax dollars are being spent.

I’ve heard it all the past few weeks: “great, but it’s too expensive.” “Someone else on staff – an assistant, a secretary – can do this stuff.” Like any other profession, quality communications work takes skill and experience. The theory of “anyone can do it” doesn’t make any more sense than saying “anyone can do a legal brief or create an engineering plan.”

Hiring an employee to do our communications work would cost even more between the salary and $27,000 we pay in benefits. Interestingly, with all the concern recently over the cost, Communicate is one of if not the lowest paid of our consultants. Our budget is in the best shape it’s been in years. The results achieved with our communications can be seen throughout our community and by the fact Martinsville is getting back on the map in a very positive way.

While basic messages can be created in-house – and we are working to make that change happen – significant projects involving strategic communications planning and writing require the talent of a seasoned communications professional.

It’s my duty to you to honor the promise of delivering improved municipal government services. Enhanced, quality communications was one of those promises. With some changes underway to help reduce the associated cost, it’s a promise I intend to keep.

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