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Have your say on CVC’s draft communications policy

Geoff Helisma

Clarence Valley Council (CVC) is exhibiting its draft communications policy – the first of its kind since CVC’s inception in 2004 – and a reviewed version of its social media policy; submissions close on Tuesday April 27.

For comparative purposes, here are examples from Coffs Harbour City Council’s (CHCC) media policy (equivalent to CVC’s ‘communications’ policy) and CVC’s draft policy.

CVC PURPOSE (and policy statement)

Communications is central to the delivery of all our services. Council will ensure our priorities, objectives, values and ambitions are communicated and understood by our workforce, residents, partners, local businesses and stakeholders.

Communications are integrated into all our corporate planning and are open, honest, clear, concise, simple and accessible.

The purpose of the Communications Policy is to:

· help us achieve our overall organisational objectives

· engage effectively with stakeholders

· ensure people understand what Council do

· demonstrate the success of our work, and,

· change behaviour and perceptions where necessary.

CHCC PURPOSE

Communicating with the media is an important part of achieving Council’s broader objectives and commitment to transparency and open, honest communication with the public. Media coverage is a key driver of organisational reputation – hence the need for a positive framework for interaction and engagement.

The purpose of this policy is to outline the responsibilities of Council workers with regard to engaging with the media.

Each of the documents nominates who the appropriate spokespeople on behalf of council are – for executive staff, employees and councillors.

However, the CHCC policy outlines in detail the responsibilities and circumstances under which these people can or cannot speak to media organisations; whereas CVC’s draft policy under its ‘Media relations’ heading advocates: “Response to media enquiries are coordinated by authorised staff in the Communication Industry & Engagement team.

“Media releases are issued to media in advance of being made available to other communication target groups.”

CVC defines the media as, “registered media groups as defined by the Australian Communications & Media Authority”, among its “communication target groups”: Business community (Registered businesses who communicate with us, and with which we may undertake transactional activities); Community interest groups (Resident or community groups who deal with us directly on behalf, and in the interest of others); Partners and other stakeholders (Non government and other government agencies and groups with which we deliver services, activities and programs); and, Residents (Individual members of our community).

CHCC’s definition of the media is similar: “Includes print media (such as national or local newspapers, magazines, newsletters, brochures etc.) broadcast media (including radio and television broadcasters and internet publishers) and social media.”

The Independent has a vested interest in the matter, as far as CVC’s communication with the media is concerned, because CVC has often failed to answer questions put to its management on behalf of community and ratepayers’ concerns.

For examples on this particular issue and resistance to certain questions, view the following stories on the newspaper’s website: ‘As CVC and the IPC grapple, translucent is the new transparent’ (Jan 22, 2020), ‘CVC to continue advertising in print media’ (May 14, 2020), ‘CVC undecided on newspaper advertising’ (July 28, 2020), ‘CVC quietly stops printed statutory advertising’ (Oct 28, 2020).

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