THE BIG QUESTION: Should Central Office seek approval from local PROs over press releases?

Last week the Society of County and Unitary PROs accused the Government of denying local PROs access to Government releases, while expecting them to deal with the local interest generated.

Last week the Society of County and Unitary PROs accused the

Government of denying local PROs access to Government releases, while

expecting them to deal with the local interest generated.





WARWICK SMITH - Citigate Public Affairs



’It’s good practice to ensure that a message is consistent and to

maximise favourable coverage. But it’s also good practice to make sure

that it’s your message that’s carried and not someone else’s. So, as the

Government’s agenda and the local agenda are often different, and we

have a Government so skilled in getting the coverage it wants, it’s not

surprising that they don’t feel the need to share their plans with

others. In any case, when MP Norman Baker’s research shows the

Government is publishing one press release every nine minutes, people

might soon tire of being consulted.’





PETER BERRY - Society of County and Unitary Public Relations

Officers



’It’s the council that gets bombarded with enquiries from the local

media after such a release. When we haven’t been told that it’s been

issued, let alone involved in its content, then unnecessary frustration

arises. Council communications people can’t meet the quality, speedy

response standard they set for themselves, and the media gets a poor

impression of government as a whole. I don’t think we should necessarily

approve press releases, but when they’re about local government issues

or responsibilities then we should be consulted. It’s ludicrous that a

local paper is told of a central government statement before the council

responsible for the service is told!’





MIKE GRANNATT - Government Information and Communication Services



’Yes, shortly after the agreement that central government should approve

local government’s press notices. Seriously, though, that’s the point

We have lots of mutual interests, but we are different organisations

with different constraints and different accountabilities. It also has

to be said that I am not aware of any complaints to me or my colleagues

recently. Nevertheless I am all for greater co-operation and

co-ordination and there is surely room for improvement. I look forward

to discussing it with SCUPRO. Bottom line: More notice? Whenever

practicable. More discussion? Definitely. Approval? Back to the real

world, chaps.’





JAN HILLARY - Newcastle City Council



’I don’t believe that this question is a serious one, but I do think

that it raises some serious issues about our relationship with

Government. Is this really the 21st century? I thought we lived in a

world of instant communications, but this is not the case when dealing

with Government departments. In the north-east, what we have really been

waiting for from this Government, is evidence of working partnerships,

an appreciation that communication is a two way process, and that it is

open and honest. At the very least, I believe that we would all

appreciate some simple co-operation between the two of us, and a

protocol based around the supply of press releases concerning our

various authorities before the press get theirs would go a long way

towards that. Local government has changed radically in the last few

years. Isn’t it about time that Government changed a little too?’



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