County council hits back

SUFFOLK county council has hit back at the East Anglian Daily Times criticism of the decision to employ public relations staff to publicise the Sunday opening of libraries, despite having eight professional press officers.

SUFFOLK county council has hit back at the East Anglian Daily Times criticism of the decision to employ public relations staff to publicise the Sunday opening of libraries, despite having eight professional press officers.

But council leader Bryony Rudkin has conceded that the council's staff will in future write and send out the press releases on the so-called Sunday Experience, after the EADT highlighted that the task had been contracted out to an Essex based media company.

In a letter to the EADT Mrs Rudkin said our front-page comment yesterday "What A Waste" and accompanying stories "completely miss the point" on marketing Sunday opening of libraries.

"Does the East Anglian Daily Times seriously expect Suffolk county to employ people full-time to script and produce radio advertising? Or to design a completely new, modern look and feel to our libraries on Sunday? Of course not," retorted Mrs Rudkin.


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"We go to the experts when we need that kind of marketing. And that is what we have done. Any well-managed organisation uses a mix of its own staff and bought-in specialist skills.

"The county council does employ eight press officers – who deal in the main, as the title suggests, with the media, as well as internal communications. They do not deal with pulling together the kind of multi-media, county-wide, high-impact campaign which we have to publicise the fact that every library in the county will soon be open on a Sunday.

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"Writing news releases, which on this campaign will now happen in house, is a very, very small part of that."

This change of heart follows the decision of Ipswich-based N8tive, which won the £25,000 publicity contract, outsource its media material to The Bottom Line Consultancy of Epping in Essex.

"Compare the numbers of communications professionals the county currently employs to our neighbours. Compare the skills they have. You will find no great difference.

"The Sunday Experience, as we are calling it, will attract different people who would normally use our libraries during the week - teenagers, people in their 20s and 30s, more families. We know we need to get more of these people into our libraries. We know Sunday is the best day of the week for them to visit libraries. This campaign will help draw them in to see what we have to offer.

"N8tive Media, the Ipswich based marketing agency who we hired, has the right skills to help us reach this audience. Readers should visit our libraries in Bury, Ipswich, Lowestoft and our other main towns later this summer and judge for themselves if the campaign has worked.

"The EADT knows that £25,000 is small sum when it comes to co-ordinating a campaign of this size. It would not buy you much more than two week's advertising in the county's newspapers.

"The county council spends £260 million a year on goods and services. The sum we are spending on marketing libraries is a fraction of 1% of this total. The contract went through our tendering processes, which helps ensure we are getting the best value for money.

"Your readers can judge for themselves if recent coverage of the county council has been fair and balanced. Your article on the so-called 40-minute council meeting, for example, completely failed to point out that councillors moved on to discuss other issues after the formal business of the meeting was concluded, and had already been engaged on other business all morning."

The Sunday opening project has been sponsored by the Learning and Skills Council to the tune of £1,500.

What do you think? Write to Letters, East Anglian Daily Times, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP4 1AN, fax number 01473 324871 or e-mail us at eadtletters@eadt.co.uk.

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