The Village of Orland Park has two full-time communications people to help promote their events and agenda. Apparently, they're not very good, their political clout and pedigree not withstanding.
Don't get me wrong. I think communications consultants and employees are important to every government, After all, having spent 30 years as an award winning journalist with front line professional journalism experience under my belt, I am a communications consultant today. My job is to know not only how to present a message for a client, but also to whom. Who is the audience? And, what message is most effective. Comes from years of experience, folks.
But I have also learned that when a government has two full-time communications employees who were paid last year $142,768 -- and no doubt far more this year to issue press releases touting Mayor Dan McLaughlin and his agenda -- and the mayor declares that clearly the problem with the village is that it is not getting their communications message out very well so they have to hired a third communications consultant. Houston. We have a problem.
Now, communications isn't rocket science. So they hired a friend of mine, Lloyd Betourney -- I say that knowing that chances are in the small minds of some of the village officials, being my friend may not be an asset. Betourney heads up The Public Response Group which mostly does political campaigns but was brought on specifically to manage "reputation management" for Mayor McLaughlin and the Village.
I'm not sure which one has the reputation management problem at this point any more. (I love the village and I like McLaughlin -- he's a decent guy but we find ourselves on the wrong side of issues many times.)
The Public Response Group will only be paid about $49,500 for their 18 month contract to help the village get its reputation in order. So that brought the amount taxpayers are spending to manage communications (and the very related aspect of reputation management) to -- let's see, I went to the public schools where class length was far longer than what we have today in Chicago and even in the suburbs -- $192.276. Again, this Chicago Public Schools alumni can figure out that represents last year's total and my guess is the salaries this year for the "two" village relatives on the payroll is probably higher. So, for the sake of sensationalism, let's just say the village is already, now, paying about $200,000 for communications.
But apparently in the month since Betourney's Public Response Group was brought on, the village of Orland Park has decided to bring on yet another communications firm. Yes, another PR group to handle the issues probably being ruffled by the village's misguided plan to build luxury condominiums next to the Metra train station. (Sure. Wealthy people are going to move next to a Metra Train so they can get to work? I don't think so.)
The new fourth PR Firm being brought is in going to deal with surveys of the public to determine, as one village official explained, if things like snow removal and street cleaning were still relevant to residents.
I'm a little surprised that someone would ask that question. Of course, they were probably told what to say when asked by the three Communications employees and consultants who I am sure got together to figure out why that amount of money wasn't going to their pockets.
And by the way, how much with the village spend to hire the fourth communications consultant? We don't know. Maybe the village needs to hire another communications consultant to help them figure that out. They'll take bids and they will do it publicly.
Mayor McLaughlin and the "IT Team" headed by Trustee Jim "Sunshine" Dodge -- that's his favorite saying -- are probably just doing their best to try and figure out why their originally intended message hasn't gotten out. And maybe they want to know why the message of the luxury apartment complex they want to build using taxpayer money seems to be mired in public rejection. And oh, the public so does not want that Main Street Ninety7Fifty complex with the nifty little name.
They just don't understand. The problem is that their message HAS already gotten out and the problem is that the taxpayers in Orland Park understand it very well and they don't want it.
Wow. And no one had to pay me for that communications advice. I can just hear the commotion at the Village of Orland Park's new Communications Consultant Armory Offices and the $280,000 in salaried and consulting employees screaming, "Let's put out 5 press releases and see if we can spin this differently folks!"
Why not? It doesn't bother them how much the village has to spend on consulting, on luxury apartments and on PR spin. It's taxpayer money anyway.
-- Ray Hanania