PUBLIC relations expert Dianne Bain says the City of Perth needs to end its “war on the media” and she’ll push to restore communication with the press if elected on October 21.
A former ABC journalist who now runs Bain Media, she says the city media staff need to get on the front foot and start responding to press queries.
For about two years the Voice has hardly got a meaningful answer to any questions put to the city’s media staff. Mostly they refuse to respond at all. Recently when we asked how much ratepayer money was spent on the city’s “Imagine Perth” campaign, the only answer we got back was that the figure was mentioned at a recent council meeting (but they wouldn’t tell us what the figure was, or which meeting, ignoring all requests for further information).
Ms Bain says the city’s staff “should at all times be responsive and accommodating to media requests. Otherwise what are we paying them for?”
She says that’d never fly in the private sector, and if she delayed and stymied requests that way, “I wouldn’t be in business”.
The other half of the problem is that the lord mayor’s relationship with the press is at rock bottom. For many years lord mayor Lisa Scaffidi was happy to publicly comment and answer queries swiftly. But following the Corruption and Crime Commission’s report finding she’d committed 45 breaches of the local government act, she went cold on the media. When reporter Liam Bartlett doorstopped her trying to get an interview, the lord mayor got personal and criticised him over his “bad breath” and “botox”.
Ms Bain describes the current situation as a “very toxic relationship”. She says one big PR blunder was Ms Scaffidi continuing to accept her lord mayoral allowance despite not performing her duties while she appeals the State Administration Tribunal’s findings which disqualified her from office.
Ms Bain says a smart move would’ve been to either forgo the allowance, or donate it to charity.
“That would have been a total PR win. People would think ‘I feel like you’ve done great things for your city—I think you’ve overstayed your welcome, but good on you for doing that.”
In April councillor Reece Harley put up a motion asking that CEO Martin Mileham investigate the apparent media blackout on the Perth Voice and Post Newspapers, saying “I don’t think it’s good enough that journalists are just never being responded to,” arguing it’s better to respond and “provide better balanced coverage because they hear both sides of the story”. Cr Jemma Green and James Limnios backed the motion but he was outvoted by Ms Scaffidi and her allies and no change occurred.
by DAVID BELL