The City of Hamilton’s communications and public relations department came under budget scrutiny at a January General Issue Committee budget session. Coun. Brad Clark wanted to know what the city was getting for the $1.9 Million its is spending on Communications. Last week John Hertel the department head, provided some answers in a presentation. In his report Hertel said the current staff complement of 24 is necessary to meet the needs of a 24-hour, 7-day news cycle. He reported that the department has been centralized, often replacing staff who until 2017 would have been embedded in the various city departments.
The report continued, “While the team has grown modestly through centralization, the incremental FTE’s s and their funding have mostly resulted from transfers of work, and in some cases people, from the operating groups. Much of this work was previously outsourced. By centralizing these resources, it has provided capacity through efficiencies that enabled additional work to be handled, and it has avoided additional staffing or outsourcing costs.” No figures were provided.
The department currently consists of nine communications officers, generally involved in public relations and media relations, four employed in Marketing and social media, six graphic designers and five in digital communications including maintaining the City website, for a total of 24 employees. By Comparison Ottawa, with a population one and a half times Hamilton has a communications staff of 31. The Communications staff in Toronto totals 54, serving a population of 3 Million.
The report said the media relations department handled over 1900 media enquiries, about one per day per media officer. The city website had 3.3 Million visits last year and the Twitter account has 117,000 followers. The department produced 124 videos and engaged in over 500 public relations campaigns. The city of Hamilton website has been criticized by members of the media and public as well as city staff for its poor functionality, especially in its search function. Communications manager Hertel says the current website is six years old and staff have been working on fixes, adding, “We are working closely with our IT Division and our recently hired Chief Digital Officer Cyrus Tehrani to ensure (the website) is built for future requirements.”