City Communications Team Identifies Goals but Struggles with Direction

City Administrator To Give Update at Tuesday’s Common Council Meeting

For many years, the City of Marshfield has struggled with communications, whether it be communicating to citizens about topical issues or educating on City services, and recent discussions by a City Communications Team have so far failed to produce a sustainable solution.

“It’s not that the City is falling short of legal requirements in providing notifications of meetings, public hearings, ordinance changes, etc., but rather that there should be a more intentional effort to promote and encourage active two-way communication with our citizens and foster true civic engagement,” City Administrator Steve Barg told FOCUS in April of this year.

Ten years ago, a communications committee was formed to discuss how to better organize communication between government and its citizens, but discussion did not lead to any tangible outcomes.

In February of this year, efforts to improve communication were renewed when Mayor Chris Meyer appointed a Communications Team to better examine the current situation and to develop a comprehensive communications plan for the City moving forward.

At the meetings, Team members have been joined by City department heads to better understand how they currently approach their role in City communications and how their role can be developed/assisted moving forward.

“A key component of being an effective leader is the ability to communicate with those around you, both staff and the citizens we serve,” said Marshfield Fire & Rescue Chief Scott Owen, a regular attendee at the Communications Team meetings. “By keeping the lines of communication open, I have been able to keep my staff up to date on happenings within the department and city, as well as informing the public on different aspects of our department.”

Charged with identifying which information the public wants and needs to have communicated to them, ensuring that information is communicated timely and accurately, and defining which mediums to use for communication, the Communications Team has met five times since April to develop a course of action.

After five meetings, with the most recent taking place on July 17, the team established three main goals for the City:

  • To communicate more regularly and comprehensively.
  • To focus efforts using a “targeted” approach.
  • To identify responsible person(s) to accomplish this.

Also at these meetings, there was much discussion regarding the staffing and/or other resources needed to meet the identified needs. Some members suggested that, unless a communications professional is hired as a full-time employee, this effort will fall short. Others have exposed significant flaws to hiring just one individual, instead promoting that the City is able to achieve the desired outcomes through modification of existing resources and without the use of additional taxpayer dollars.

Marshfield Community Television (MCTV) has been the subject of discussion, and current coordinator Branden Bodendorfer of Tri-Media (which also operates FOCUS) cautions that hiring a full-time person could result in reducing or eliminating community programming through MCTV. Instead, he has proposed a creative solution to City communications, one which he encourages the Communications Team to seriously consider.

“As a committee member and a leader in communications in the community, it’s concerning to see the City has not addressed how to create engaging content that the citizens can interact with,” said Bodendorfer. “The focus lately has been on establishing a reason to have a full time person in this role, instead of establishing a strategy in which someone in this role could succeed.”

With pros and cons to each outcome, and considerably more questions than answers, more discussion is required before a course of action can be recommended.

On Monday, July 24 at 5:00pm, the Cable TV Committee holds its regular monthly meeting, and the proposed replacement of equipment will be reviewed. On Tuesday, July 25 at 7:00pm, Barg will give an update to the Mayor and City Council.

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