Download a PDF version of this policy - updated 16 September 2015
1.1 The relationship between the Bridlington Town Council (hereinafter “the Council”) and the residents of Bridlington (hereinafter “the community”) is vital to the Council’s work and the decisions it takes. An open and constructive dialogue between the Council and the community is a key requirement for influencing and developing services, identifying attitudes, and measuring satisfaction.
1.2 Effective media relations are an important factor in establishing a positive relationship between the Council and the community. Since many members of the community rely on the media for local information and news, it is important for the Council to present information about its activities and aspirations to the community in a consistent way. The community, in this sense, includes: residents; elected representatives; businesses; schools; places of worship; statutory agencies; voluntary organisations; and other local groups and associations.
1.3 This document sets out the framework for the Bridlington Town Council Councillors (hereinafter “Members”) employees, and contracted parties to follow in contacting the media, use of social media and informing the public about the Council’s activities, the decisions it takes, and the services it provides.
2.0 Media Opportunities
2.1 The phrase “the media” refers to more than the local newspaper. Instead, it encompasses many different means of communicating a message to a wide audience, and includes:
- broadcast media such as radio and television;
- print media such as newspapers, community newsletters, free sheets, magazines, posters, and leaflets;
- online media variants such as news outlets and local blogs;
- social media including Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, and other popular social media outlets.
2.2 Many of the outlets referred to in section 2.1 have different facets; for example, a newspaper has feature writers and specialist correspondents in addition to dedicated news staff.
2.3 Different media outlets respond more readily to certain factors. For example, newspapers are more likely to print a story that is of public interest if supplied with photographs or quotations from an interview; radio items tend to be quite brief and may feature a short soundbite; and television producers will want suitable video and interviews to illustrate a story.
3.0 Making Contact with the Media
3.1 The general principle is that the Town Clerk will act as the Council’s Press Officer. Any official contact with the media concerning the Council’s policies, the decisions it takes, and the services it provides are to be initiated through the Clerk.
3.2 Press releases and statements will be prepared by the Clerk and/or Chairman of the Council in association with other Council Members (as required) and will normally be restricted to matters that have been debated and agreed by the Council.
3.3 Council Members, employees (not including the Clerk and Chairman), and contracted parties who identify a media opportunity should refer to the Clerk at the earliest opportunity in order to ensure accuracy and consistency in any subsequent press releases or contact with the media.
3.4 If a Member, employee, or contracted party receives an approach or enquiry from the media about any matter relating to the Council, it should be referred to the Clerk at the earliest opportunity. A decision will then be made by the Clerk and/or Chairman, in consultation with other Members where necessary, about the format and content of any response. This applies regardless of from whence the approach or enquiry originated, whether it is a letter in a newspaper, a comment on a social media website, from any other form of media outlet, or in person directly from the media person or persons involved.
3.5 Nothing in these guidelines is to be interpreted as preventing, or attempting to prevent, a Member from expressing a personal opinion through the media; this may include writing to a newspaper or posting their personal thoughts or beliefs online on a blog or on a personal social media platform.
3.6 Members must make it clear that any views expressed are their own personal views; however, Members should take care not to misrepresent and/or bring the Council into disrepute, and must bear in mind their responsibilities under the Model Code of Conduct. When expressing personal views through any media outlet – including newspapers and social media websites among others – Members must always ensure that it is clear that views expressed are their own personal views and are not necessarily shared or endorsed by the Council.
3.7 Employees and contracted parties should not contact the media on any matter relating to the Council unless specifically authorised by the Clerk and/or Chairman of the Council. Reactive news can be dealt with by any employee or authorised contracted party at short notice by telephone consultations with the Council if the need arises.
3.8 Should any Member, employee, or contracted party wish to respond to a comment or query from a member of the community, where their comment or query relates to an official Council matter rather than a personal view, guidance should be sought from the Clerk and/or Chairman of the Council in order to provide an official response from the Council, should this be necessary. This applies regardless of from whence the comment or query originated, whether it is a letter in a newspaper, a comment on a social media website, from any other form of media outlet, or in person directly from the member of the community.
3.9 All press releases, correspondence, and other outgoing materials are to be kept by the Clerk in case they are required for future reference.
4.0 Talking to the Media
4.1 In response to a Council press release:
- any enquiry from the media is to be referred to the Clerk;
- no-one else should offer any comment without prior discussion, except to confirm basic matters of fact (dates of events, spelling of names, etc.)
4.2 In response to an unsolicited approach from a journalist or reporter (this includes enquiries about press releases issued by other organisations):
- the views of the Council may be expressed subject to the guidelines above;
- the Clerk should be informed so that facts can be checked and appropriate action taken.
5.0 Social Media
5.1 Social media can be a highly effective and involving platform which can be used to great effect by the Council. To this end, the Council wholly supports effective use of social media platforms by its Members, employees, and contracted parties within reason and the boundaries of suitability.
5.2 The Council reserves the right to monitor the use of social media by its Members, employees, and contracted parties. Members may be asked to declare which social media platforms they are using and provide access (i.e. links) to these at any time.
5.3 All Members should always make very clear that their own personal social media pages and blogs are wholly personal and are not affiliated or directly influenced by the Council in any way.
5.4 To protect the integrity and funded assets of Bridlington Town Council all Civic Regalia is not to be used on personal social media pages without prior consultation to the office for approval. This includes the Town Council Crest/Coat of Arms, Civic chains or pendants and clothing or attire purchased by the Town Council.
5.5 Town Council Civic Regalia is only ever to be worn by the current incumbent of posts. Special permission can be sought and granted in exceptional circumstances.
5.6 With the exception of its official Twitter page, the Council does not currently use any official social media platforms. Any social media pages found to be created on behalf of the Council or impersonating the Council or any of its members should be disclosed to the Clerk and the contracted IT Consultant at the earliest opportunity in order for the matter to be resolved.
5.7 During official Council meetings, social media should not be used by any present employees, contracted parties, Members, or the Chairman of the Council at any time.
5.8 Regarding the Council’s official Twitter page:
- The Council’s Twitter page may be controlled and modified by the Clerk, the Chairman of the Council, the employed Civic Officer, and/or the contracted IT Consultant (each “a moderator” or together “the moderators”). Any of these parties who wish to take on, or relieve themselves of, these duties may do so once they have alerted the other moderators of this. At no point should any other Member, employee, or contracted party have the ability to control or modify the Council’s Twitter page; however, they are always welcome to discuss potential postings with a moderator.
- The Council’s Twitter page should not be used to respond to any other tweets, regardless of its author. If another user’s tweet is retweeted on the Council’s Twitter page, it should be retweeted with an additional comment and not on its own. Other users’ tweets may be marked as a “favourite” and these should always be in direct relation to the Council as they appear directly on the Council’s Twitter page.
- The Council’s Twitter page should be used in order to relay information to members of the public. Such examples include, but are not limited to: upcoming Council meetings; local events; civic events; important local information; page updates on the website; information pertaining to Council events; news releases.
- The Council’s Twitter page should not be used by a moderator for their own personal gain at any time. Any tweet authored by the Chairman of the Council should be clearly signed with their initials. As this is an official outlet, it is advised that good spelling and grammar be observed when possible.
- Should the Clerk, the Chairman of the Council, the employed Civic Officer, or the contracted IT Consultant leave or renounce their post while an active moderator of the Council’s Twitter page, that person should relinquish all access to the Council’s Twitter page unless otherwise agreed by other active moderators. Its password should be changed by one active moderator following confirmation from any other active moderators at this time.
- During official Council meetings, moderators should avoid using the Council’s Twitter page where possible, even when the moderator is absent from the meeting. Social media should not be used during meetings by the parties noted in section 5.7, and moderators should recall that members of the public are not aware of by whom the page is being used at any time, including during meetings.
5.9 Should the Council ever resolve to take on further official social media pages, this policy should be revised to reflect this at the earliest opportunity, and should also be reviewed every six months. Use of the new social media pages should not be undertaken until this policy has been revised and accepted; however, registration of any necessary pages may take place beforehand if necessary.
6.1 It is important to monitor the media for items (reports, articles, letters) about the Council in order to know:
- whether press releases and statements issued by the Council are picked up and used effectively;
- what members of the community are saying about the Council.
6.2 Members, employees, and contracted parties are encouraged to look out for items referring to the Council in the media. Original press cuttings should be sent to the Clerk; it is not permissible to send photocopies.
6.3 Any Member, employee, or contracted party taking part in a radio or television broadcast on a matter relating directly or indirectly to the Council should attempt to arrange for the broadcast to be recorded and for a copy to be sent to the Clerk at the earliest opportunity. In the absence of a recording, a note of the broadcast’s contents should be sent. In all instances, the Clerk should receive prior notice of the broadcast, its intentions, and any participating Members, employees, or contracted parties.