AUGUSTA — City councilors set improving communications and marketing as their top goal for 2019.

Councilor voted unanimously Thursday to set their goals for the year. The approved goals are improving communications and marketing; honoring Augusta’s role in Maine history by playing a prominent role in the upcoming 2019-2020 state bicentennial celebrations; supporting the re-establishment of the Capital Riverfront Improvement District, a city-state partnership that went dormant in recent years; supporting the arts; improving the quality of life; supporting high-quality development; continuing efforts to manage and reduce the carbon footprint of city government; and keeping councilors informed about city trends.

City Manager William Bridgeo said that councilors indicated, at a January daylong goal-setting session also attended by school officials, that improving communications was their top priority for the year. School officials also indicated at that January session that the school board, in reviewing its goals for the year, came to the same conclusion, that improving communications was also their top goal.

At-large Councilor Mark O’Brien said Thursday he thought the city staff “did a very good job reflecting the discussion we had” in January and turning it into the seven-page goals document approved Thursday. Bridgeo said the document was prepared primarily by local consultant Frank O’Hara.

City and school officials plan to pursue the goal of improving communications together.

“A marketing and communications strategy involves identifying the message; the audiences; the media platforms; the look; the staffing; the procedures and coordination; the measurements of effectiveness,” the written goals statement approved by councilors Thursday states. “The strategy should be developed by an expert marketing consultant. … The Augusta City Council and Augusta Board of Education should share in the costs, approve a joint strategy, and implement the joint strategy together.”

Part of attaining that goal probably would be accomplished by hiring or consulting with a public affairs officer who’d be responsible for promoting the virtues of the city and schools to out-of-towners, handling sticky public relations problems and informing residents about what’s going on in Augusta, across all media platforms.

Bridgeo said he would put funding to do that in the city budget he is currently preparing and will deliver to councilors at the end of March, though he noted councilors could end up cutting it from the budget if they wish.

Mayor David Rollins said having someone available to the city to improve communications and marketing could mean hiring someone, full  or part time, assigning it to an existing city staff member or hiring a consultant. With the school board also having identified improving communications with the public as a top goal of theirs this year, Rollins noted, the city and the schools could share in the effort, for the benefit of both.

Councilors have said Augusta needs to do a better job selling itself to others.

A written draft of the proposed goals suggests forming a committee to help determine the city’s goals in marketing and communications and how to best address those goals.

Ward 4 Councilor Eric Lind has said the effort to improve communications and marketing should include improvements to the city’s website, including more frequent updates and easier-to-navigate options, and expanding the city’s social media presence.

 

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]
Twitter: @kedwardskj

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