it’s not what you don’t say but how you don’t say it

The shortcomings of the Town of Aurora’s Communications Department over the past 4 years have been an ongoing subject here on my blog.

Back in this 2010 post: https://wattstrending.wordpress.com/2010/01/09/ill-communication/ I pointed out how the Town’s CAO explained that the reason the town was hiring a Manager of Corporate Communications as such:

“I think we want to communicate effectively so that there are less opportunities out there for misunderstandings”.

Given the recent debacle over the town’s lackluster communication efforts in the wake of the ice storm several misunderstandings exist, and others are only being allowed to grow without the proper oversight by town council.

During the meeting of Monday January 13th questions surfaced for an increase in the line item for communications in the 2014 Operating budget.

What is being proposed is approaching a $600,000 annual spend, an increase of almost $40,000 over 2013’s spend.

1/6th of that amount, $107,000 to be exact was lumped together as “other”. No specifics were provided.

Some councilor’s feigned confusion and demanded some rationale.

Curious that none of that discussion happened following the recent service level review, where Aurorans have been told that we are receiving good value for our money.

To that I call bullshit.

The service level review compared us to other municipalities.

I have already drawn a comparison between Aurora and Newmarket with regard to their emergency preparedness communications plan, so it is worthwhile to extrapolate on that some more.

The decision to partner with 680 News stemmed from an external communications study Newmarket did in 2008, something The Corporate Communications Office in Newmarket conducts every three years:
http://www.newmarket.ca/en/townhall/2008externalcommunicationssurvey.asp

How it has slipped Aurora’s radar is very strange given that in this February 2013 Error Banner piece Georgina was considering following Newmarket’s lead:
http://www.yorkregion.com/opinion-story/1940066-georgina-should-take-page-from-newmarket-survey/

On page 7 of the March 8th 2005 edition of the Auroran ( http://www.newspapers-online.com/auroran/?wpfb_dl=164 ) it is reported that a Corporate Communications policy was adopted in 1999. This policy specified the “development of a comprehensive annual communications plan to facilitate the coordination of all communication channels for maximum efficiency, impact and delivery of information”.

Where are the town’s communications plans for the last 4 years?

How have they been evaluated for their R.O.I? By staff or council?

In her November 2013 piece to PR Daily Dorothy Crenshaw outlines 6 things that undermine a communications plan: http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/15589.aspx

Aurora would be guilty of all 6, that is if it had a communications plan that it is following.

Sadly it does not appear that it does, and the impact has been seen in a variety of ways.

At the onset of the term I recall the Mayor and Clr. Thompson giving me assurances that the current Communication Manger would bring sweeping changes, because after all he came from the York Region offices.

I so wanted to believe this, but instead there has only been a steady stream of disappointments.

Let’s take the Sesquicentennial Ad-hoc committee as an example.

I attended several of the early committee meetings and was dumbfounded to hear in the discussions of one of them a push back from the Communications Manager when asked by committee members how the 150 would be accommodated on the town’s website.

The conversation devolved into how problematic it is for the town to add or remove buttons from the landing page of it’s site. Totally absurd.

At some point the reluctance to assist the committee came to a head as it was noted on pg 15 of 16 of the GC minutes of Tuesday April 16th 2013 here:

http://www.town.aurora.on.ca/app/wa/mediaEntry?mediaEntryId=61308

THAT, as the Manager of Corporate Communications informed the Committee that he is unable to communicate anything about Aurora150th until he receives direction from the Committee, the Manager of Corporate Communications be directed to meet with Sesquicentennial Ad Hoc Committee member Greg
Smith, to discuss the website

What level of fuckery have we reached when town staff has to be directed to work with the committee they have already been directed to work with?

I was also at the committee meeting when the Communications manager gave a glowing endorsement of the committee’s coordinator which he was responsible for recruiting. This was a controversial post that had to get approval by council for an agreed upon compensation with an upset limit of $60,000.

Shortly after the 1st Aurora 150 event she quit. No explanation was provided for this departure and existing town staff had to struggle with absorbing the extra workload while she went to work in Stoufville:
http://www.yorkregion.com/news-story/4079854-town-waiting-on-new-website-to-tweet-stouffville/

WTF?

This was the same coordinator that took it upon herself to harass a resident taking photographs at the 1st event, I posted on that here:
https://wattstrending.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/when-the-levee-breaks-your-spirit/

David Grossman explains how there are no excuses for poor communications in his June 2013 article here:
http://www.yourthoughtpartner.com/blog/bid/60005/Become-a-Great-Communicator-No-Excuses-for-Poor-Communication

Grossman suggests several ways to elevate the level of your communications.

I hope all of these are not only included, but easily communicated during the
portion of tomorrow’s budget meeting when the Communication Manager has been directed to report his portion of the budget to council.

He’s not the only one in the hot seat.

So are any members of council that continue to allow such poor performance in this key service to our town.

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