Recognizing the importance of political understanding in the role of senior municipal administrators, also referred to as political acumen, the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators (CAMA) launched a Political Acumen Toolkit. This resource can be found at politicalacumen.camacam.ca
Politics are performed in the public domain and as a result, are loved by the media. Media, whether it be formal news institutions, online reporters/bloggers, or the commentary of online social networks, act as a check and balance for elected officials by “keeping them honest.” This can either be a good or bad thing depending on a CAO’s political acumen and ability to work with media representatives.
Today’s featured category is tips on managing media relationships.
An administration’s relationship with local media is one of the most important relationships that can be cultivated by a CAO. Positive relationships with reporters and news outlets assist municipalities in three ways:
-It ensures that when there is negative news coverage, the municipality’s input is given positive consideration in the report.
-It also allows Administration to use the media to the community’s advantage when there is a need to get information out to residents.
-It supports the foundational planning for emergency preparedness where media will be used as a conduit to stakeholders in a crisis situation.
For these reasons, the communications strategy for your municipality should include media coverage as a key tactic. In addition to required public notices, media outlets should be used to provide exposure to important initiatives or changes in the community, especially if they will have a significant impact on the public. Building rapport with these organizations will allow you to get editorial content to speak to key issues facing your municipality at no cost. If this relationship is not there, your municipality may be forced to rely on advertising content, which is less likely to receive attention.
Media should always be treated with respect. Doing so increases the probability that they will reciprocate and treat Administration and Council with deference. Get on the bad side of a reporter, and it is more likely for your municipality to be reflected negatively in any news coverage. As a sign of good faith, it can also be a good strategy to reach out to reporters before they contact you occasionally. This shows that you are genuine and willing to share information, when appropriate.
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