Communications branch is growing
The City of St. John’s communications department — which didn’t formally exist prior to 2010 — now comprises five full-time employees and has a budget of nearly half a million dollars.
The growth of the department — which was born in November 2010 when the city’s first public-relations employee was hired — is part of the city’s efforts to improve its internal and external communications, said the department’s newly hired manager, Susan Bonnell, formerly communications director for Eastern Health.
Although that line item has taken a big jump in the 2014 budget — from $109,950 budgeted in 2013 to $478,075 for this year — Bonnell explained in an email to The Telegram that funds and positions scattered among other departments have now been consolidated in one unit aiming for “improved communications and citizen engagement.”
“Previously, there was one individual identified to provide communications support under the ‘corporate communications’ line item,” Bonnell, who declined to be interviewed, wrote in an email.
“However, there were in fact three other individuals providing communications and marketing support who were working in other departments that are now consolidated in the new Office of Strategy and Engagement.”
The department’s budget breaks down to $425,415 for the five employees, $38,500 for contractual services, $2,960 in materials and supplies, and $11,200 in capital out of revenue.
The budget puts the fledgling department somewhere between Halifax’s $3.2 million for corporate communications and the much smaller departments in cities in the other Atlantic provinces.
Halifax’s budget includes all postage and internal communications costs ($607,000) and printing costs ($97,000) for the entire Halifax regional municipality, and comprises 25 full-time positions, including 13 in marketing communications and design, four in public affairs, four in the print centre, three in internal communications, and one managing director for all corporate communications.
Halifax’s expenditure represents a greater proportion of the operating budget than St. John’s communications does. Halifax’s overall operating budget for 2013-14 is $824 million, compared with $205.4 million for the City of St. John’s.
By contrast, the other Atlantic provincial capitals spend much less. Fredericton, N.B., employs one person in corporate communications, with a budget of $149,529 (out of an operating budget of $104.1 million), which includes salary, benefits and funds for professional services, promotional materials, memberships, phones and computer.
Charlottetown, P.E.I., also employs one person — who recently went on maternity leave. Her temporary replacement, who started last week, told The Telegram there isn’t a line item dedicated to corporate communications, but funds for various communications needs are spread out among several city departments.