Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Conehead Question

For those of you who get the Sunday Statesman as a real newspaper, have you ever seen the Road Wizard column in the section known as Insight? It has a little graphic of a traffic cone, therefore, I refer to it as the conehead column.

If you've seen the conehead column, do you actually read it? And if you read it, do you read it every week or just once in a while?

I ask this because there are a lot of misconceptions going around, both inside and outside ACHD, about this column.

I think most people assume it's a service run by the Statesman. Wrong, it's a paid advertisement and costs taxpayers almost $50,000 per year to run. But, the response is, we're getting such a good deal - it's discounted from a ginourmous figure of like $150,000.00 that we would have to pay if we didn't get the discount by publishing it every week. Yes, but we also put this online at ACHD's website even though one has to search for it and we have it on the website for literally free.

I think most people also assume it's written by one of the four communications specialists we have in our seven member communications department. Wrong again - it's written by an outside person that we pay $8400 per year.

Now, I've brought this up to the other ACHD Commissioners because I think there's a better use for the money than paying someone (and it turns out this has been going on for at least 15 years) on the outside to write the column when someone we already pay a salary to can write it. But no joy.

The comments range from everyone I know loves this column to - it's a way of getting our message out to - people appreciate the way it's written to - well, what work would our people not be able to do if they were doing this.

Now, I'm neither a communications specialist nor a public relations person, but I do believe that it can't take too long to read the questions that come in, pick a few of them out, transcribe those questions to a word doc and then find the answers to those questions. Maybe an hour or two a week? And we could do it in a less snarky and derisive way, although others have described it as too cutesy.

Anyway, the gist of the issue is, do we pay someone to write the column and pay the Statesman to put it in the paper at a cost of around $55,000.00 per year? Or do we write it inhouse and publish it on line for free?

Since we're looking to make budget cuts of $4,500,000 this week and more in a few months - I think I know the answer to that question.


At February 12, 2009 at 3:50 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Oops, I think I posted this to the wrong thread earlier, about you being sworn in - please delete from there)

I am a self-employed PR professional and it does seem as though the in-house staff could do this. Doing the column would also be a good way for the in-house staff to keep abreast of what kinds of questions the public is asking.

Good to see you blogging, Sara.

At February 26, 2009 at 7:39 AM , Blogger MNMAC said...

This is a no brainer, in my opinion. Internal staff should be doing this type of work, especially if ACHD has communications-type people on staff. This expense would be the first cut if this were a business. I don't read the column often-now that I know it's on the website, I'll go there.


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