Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

City hall to revamp public relations

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The City of Winnipeg plans to overhaul the way it conducts public relations -- only months after launching a separate search for consultants to help out with the same task.

The city is looking for a consultant to review its corporate communications office, which fields queries from reporters, assists 17 city departments with public consultations and also handles social media.

A request for proposals posted on the city's website said the city wants to review the mandate of its public-relations office, scrutinize the budget and see how other municipalities engage the public and deal with media.

The city also wants to see how corporate communications staff fit into the public service, a relationship that has proven contentious since 2005 when the city last conducted a public-relations overhaul.

At the time, Winnipeg got rid of a system in which each city department had its own spokesman with the authority to field media queries.

The city replaced that model with a centralized media-relations office that handled all queries.

Communications technology changed tremendously in the ensuing eight years, said Linda Burch, Winnipeg's director of corporate-support services.

"As such, stakeholders' expectations on how they wish to receive information from the public service have also evolved," Burch said in a statement.

Consultants interested in conducting the review could bid on the job until last week.

The preparation for a public-relations review follows an earlier city search for communications consultants to assist city media-relations staff with serious issues "on an 'as required' basis, where and when available."

That search started late in the winter, when the city struggled to handle a tide of complaints about frozen pipes, snow clearing, water-main breaks and the lingering brown-water problem.

"It's really a matter of adding capacity on a temporary basis," corporate-communications manager Steve West said at the time.

The city has also created an entire new office whose job partly entails strategic communications. Bonnie Staples-Lyon, the former chief of staff to Mayor Sam Katz, runs the office of policy development and communications.

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 17, 2014 B4

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