Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Communications, another person's opinion on what's happening in the CNP.
This article was posted on John Prince's Blog today http://blog.johnprince.ca/ It appears in this week's Pass Herald. I agree with John it is very well written and very timely for what's going on in the Crowsnest Pass now days.
Who’s in charge
I was fascinated to hear that the Municipality of the Crowsnest Pass has hired a communications consultant to help strengthen relationships with residents. As someone with more than 25 years experience in the field, I'm curious about what motivates an organization to out-source communication, something I consider leadership's primary responsibility. I've found that there are usually two reasons why an organization seeks external communications advice. Either the Municipality, for example, doesn't have the resources to hire an internal staff person. Or, it has the resources, but not the expertise.
Based on the hiring frenzy that has occurred in the Crowsnest Pass in the last year, it doesn't seem that resources are the issue. Council continues to write cheques for everything from new office flooring to fancy trucks to hiring external consultants. Therefore, it must be an issue of expertise. And that is where things start to get tricky.
Communication is the life-blood of every organization. It is what makes all the working parts hum. It's the oil that keeps things from over-heating, the fulcrum that keeps things in balance. For our elected officials to admit, by their decision to hire external communications advice, that they do not have the expertise to keep the municipal system working properly, is a serious problem. Particularly, with a Mayor
and Council that repeatedly boast about their education and professionalism. It's one thing to seek advice on website design. It's quite another to have someone from outside the community take control of building
relationships with taxpayers and the media. It's one thing to hire someone to plan a special event, it's quite another to hire an external consultant to establish long-term strategy goals.
When an organization decides to outsource its communications, particularly an organization that is elected, it is admitting that it has lost control. Communications is not separate from leadership, it is leadership. When those in charge are not fulfilling their responsibilities, perhaps because they are feeling threatened, the tendency is to relegate people into camps - those who are with the Mayor and Council, for
example, and those who are against. Relationships are seen as absolutes, and actions simulate a kind of guerrilla warfare. Outside communication consultants are like mercenaries, hired to give one side a strategic advantage. Strategy is about scoring points. The business of the Municipality becomes getting, then maintaining, control.
If it is the intention of those in charge of this community to bring people together, to dedicate themselves to clarity, transparency, and moving forward. If those in charge are prepared to listen, to talk with people not at them, to repair relationships, and to search for common ground, they do not need an external communications consultant. Because their actions, based on their intentions, will communicate volumes
to the people who live here, visit here, and want to do business here