Students in the public relations program at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax are helping Sackville come up with a new communications plan.
“This is really exciting,” CAO Jamie Burke told town council last night. “Our strategic plan requires us to have a marketing and communication plan,” he said, adding that the town decided to split the plan in two.
In August, council adopted a $15,000 marketing plan devised by Portfolio, a firm based in Moncton.
Burke said the town then sent a note to Mount Saint Vincent asking if public relations students could help with the communications part.
“It’s amazing, we have 27 students working,” Burke said. “The class is divided into two. Half the class is looking at outward-facing communication, so how we communicate with the public, seniors, students, children etc. and the other half of the class is looking at how we communicate amongst ourselves,” he added.
“[It’s] a much deeper dive than we originally planned,” Burke said.
He added that the students are looking at the town’s website and its social media channels.
“They are aware that we’ve lost the local Tribune-Post,” he said. “It will be interesting to see what some of the bright thinkers can come up with [as] a way that we can reach some of those populations that don’t use traditional social media channels.”
In 2009, town council approved a strategic plan drafted by Mount Allison professor Michael Fox and his students that called for hiring a designated communications officer.
The plan also called for restructuring town council and assigning communications roles to various members, but the restructuring never happened and the town’s latest procedural bylaw says the mayor and CAO will issue news releases and be “the primary contact person’s with respect to the dissemination of information.”
Sackville’s communications policies were questioned last week when CHMA journalist Erica Butler asked the town to make documents available so that she could follow discussions at special council meetings usually held on the first Monday of each month.
For coverage of her request and the CAO’s response including an audio recording of their exchange, click here.
During last night’s council meeting, Deputy Mayor Aiken said Burke hadn’t meant that he didn’t want journalists to cover special meetings (as Warktimes reported) only that the media shouldn’t be able to report on documents before they are presented to council.
Aiken did promise, however, that the town would find some way of making the documents available so that journalists and the public can see them when they come up for discussion.