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Communication policy explained

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Recently, there has been interest in the Resort Municipality of Whistler's (RMOW's) media relations procedure and we felt that it was important to provide some background to ensure people have the facts.

As the municipal government, our goal and responsibility is to provide the media and residents with clear and consistent information so they can form their own opinions. Our community life survey confirms annually that the local newspapers are the primary way that Whistlerites like to receive information.

One role of our communications department is to facilitate media inquiries. This means taking and recording media calls, researching background and information requested by reporters, and putting requests through to the most appropriate council or staff members.

About 90 per cent of media request interviews with the mayor. One of the standard designated roles of any mayor is to act as the primary spokesperson for their municipality, although a news story also often requires a subject or technical expert such as a planner, project manager or financial representative. Councillors are also sought out by media for their comments. It is rare that media would not be directed to the person they requested for an interview.

As is evident in the Whistler newspapers most weeks of the year, a variety of staff and council members are quoted regarding many areas of municipal business, much of which has been presented or discussed publicly at a council meeting.

Nothing has changed in our media relations procedure. But one thing has changed - the number of media calls to the organization has skyrocketed. During the one-year countdown to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, the mayor conducted 18 interviews in one week. With assistance in managing and scheduling the high volume of requests, local, regional and international media requests can be successfully fulfilled.

Some key questions:

Is the RMOW communications team playing a larger role in facilitating the increased number of requests? Yes. Are the mayor, council and staff representatives withholding information or responding to less media requests than before? No. Have councillors been told they cannot speak to the media? No. Is the RMOW able to respond to media in a timely manner? Yes. Do some requests take longer to respond to than we'd like? Yes. Does the mayor have a new cell phone? Yes. Is the policy at the RMOW unusual compared to most municipal governments or other organizations? No. Are questions and concerns from the media and the community of primary interest to RMOW council and staff? Yes. Will increased media coverage help communicate municipal affairs and build awareness of Whistler as a destination resort? Yes.

The communications team is part of the overall RMOW team who are working hard to ensure the media has the information they need to get news stories out to the community. If you'd like to know more about this, or any aspect of the municipality, please contact us, come out to a twice-monthly council meeting or check our website at whistler.ca.

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