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County's communication changes include reduced newspaper advertising

“We are exploring a transition away from traditional means of advertising and placing a focus on more innovative ways of engagement and communication," says Mountain View County's director of legislative, community and agricultural services

MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY - County council has approved a shakeup of the municipality’s communications strategy which includes a greater focus on social media and a steep cut to newspaper advertising.

The 2023 communications workplan was presented to council during the Jan. 25 council meeting. 

“We wanted to change some of the ways in which our communications department is currently operating,” Chris Atchison, director of legislative, community and agricultural services, told council. “We are exploring other opportunities of getting our messaging out there.

“Obviously within council’s communication’s strategy there is a real focus on making sure that we hit all types of demographics and looking at all types of media sources in order to get council’s information out there.

“We are exploring a transition away from traditional means of advertising and placing a focus on more innovative ways of engagement and communication.”

The 2023 communications workplan was prepared following a corporate-wide department review in an attempt to “identify opportunities for improving communications throughout the county and for our ratepayers,” he said.

The plan includes a revised newspaper format that “would allow for excess dollars to be allocated to new, innovative means of communication with residents,” he said. 

The plan specifically calls for a 50 per cent reduction in newspaper advertising, with the county purchasing one-page instead of the current two pages per week, with an option to purchase more than one page if required on a specific week.

“We would be looking with this one-pager to use that as our standard offering and increase the amount of advertising depending on what is going on and if we need to purchase more we could certainly do so,” he said.

Reducing advertising to one page instead of two in the Albertan would save the county about $52,000 a year, he said.

Under the plan, those funds would be re-allocated to online council interviews, online workshops, paid social media campaign advertising and the creation of interactive map on websites for planning and development.

“We are looking at different and more innovative ways of getting information out to our residents in different formats,” he said.

During discussion of the proposed new communications workplan, Division 1 councillor Dwayne Fulton spoke in favour of the changes.

“Lots of the feedback that I’ve got from my area and even into a few other areas is that there is a significant number of people that don’t even open newspaper,” said Fulton. “It arrives in the mailbox and it goes directly into trash. They don’t open it at all, so I’m fully in support of shaving it down to one page and we can work towards more online and more social and we can direct people to get on to our other things.”

Coun. Greg Harris said, in part, “I can’t even think of a case where people said, ‘Hey I saw something on Facebook.’ It’s always in the newspaper,” said Harris. “I’m not a fan of when we keep reducing the amount of space we use in the newspaper. I think the space that we give for notice on this like appeals and development deserves a little more.

“I know that in area, in the west, (residents) don’t get good enough (internet) reception so the newspaper is their number one source. I would like to see us stay with at least two pages. When I started in this job we had four. I’m really not in favour of cutting it down to one page.”

Coun. Jennifer Lutz said, in part, “I don’t even read the (print edition) paper now; I read it online.”

Coun. Gord Krebs said, in part, “The newspaper is important, especially for (advertising of) appeals and I would hate to see those get any smaller, but I like the idea of saving $52,000 and get it down to one page.”

Reeve Angela Aalbers said, in part, “There is other options where we could increase the operating budget for communications for one year and leave the paper as is. There is the opportunity to try some of these initiatives while we still have the paper (advertising) in place.”

Coun. Krebs put forward the motion to accept the 2023 communications workplan which was unanimously approved.

Coun. Peggy Johnson did not attend the Jan. 25 council meeting.

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