CUMBERLAND — City officials have started a search to contract a public relations firm to help increase communication in an effort to better serve the public.
The topic of communication was covered in a special work session held Tuesday by the mayor and City Council at City Hall.
Several citizens attended last week’s regular public council meeting, including former downtown manager Ed Mullaney, and asked for improved communication on local happenings, particularly the latest developments on three closed bridges on the city’s West Side.
“What we are really looking for, and I think it was pointed out last Tuesday during our meeting, we as a group need to get better at communicating to the citizens of Cumberland things that are going on,” Mayor Ray Morriss said. “We need to have a process to keep them informed.”
Dave Williams and Becky McClarran, principals of McClarran and Williams, a local marketing and public relations firm interesting in filling the role, gave a presentation at Tuesday’s meeting.
“This is about strategic communication,” said Williams. “It is not PR and not spin; it is a process of getting your story out. We’ve been doing this in Cumberland since 1985. We have a wide range of clients that we provide different services for.
“Silence is a bad thing because people make up their own version,” Williams said. “The city needs to proactively fill its communication channels with its story.”
McClarran said the city of Covington, Kentucky, works hard at communication.
“They are doing an incredible job of keeping their community aware of what’s happening,” McClarran said. “They do it in a positive, humorous and thoughtful way. That can be done in Cumberland.”
Williams said traditional outlets like newspapers and radio are good, but social media is also an effective tool if used properly.
“You may need to consolidate some things,” he said. “More is not always better. There is a lot of different social media outlets there, but too often it’s the same content across all of them. Even if we all share it, it is too much of a repetition of the same content.”
Morriss said communication must be done on multiple platforms.
“We do a press release, and we hear (people say) we never heard anything about this,” he said. “That is where we need to be more creative in getting our message out to people.”
Councilman Seth Bernard talked to the Times-News on Wednesday. He said additional firms are likely to apply for the role.
“We are still figuring out if this is the route we want to go,” Bernard said. “We will work through it and take a vote.”
Bernard said the topic of improving messaging has been discussed for months.
“Someone who is in opposition to the idea might say, ‘If the information is there all the city has to do is relay it,’” Bernard said. “The problem is today it is not just the paper and radio, there are a million other ways and a lot of the time it’s in the internet. It gets muddled on the internet. So someone who can get the facts out in a clean manner and give it a community feel would help.”
Councilwoman Laurie Marchini also likes the idea.
“We have been talking about how we can communicate better and make people aware of what is going on in the city,” she said.
“If somebody else has an idea of what they could do, I’m sure we would be open to others. I took that (meeting) to be more informational than anything. It was just an opportunity to hear them out. We are interested in that concept, but no vote was taken.”
A final vote on hiring a PR firm will be conducted in a regular public meeting.
“We talked about this before we were sworn in,” said Councilman Rock Cioni. “I feel positively we will have someone that will help us with this. We need a consistency to (our message). We want to control the message and be proactive. We don’t want to be lost on this and just reacting all the time.”
Follow staff writer Greg Larry on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.