Whittlesea stages LGPro PR Network seminar

In April, the Local Government Professionals (LGPro) Public Relations Network met at the Whittlesea City Council Offices for its bimonthly meeting.

The Network was formed in the 1980s and comprises active Local Government public relations professionals in Victoria.

At the seminar, Leader Community Newspaper’s Group News Editor, Nick Richardson, explained how Leader worked with the City of Whittlesea and other Interface Councils, along with local service providers, peak social service organisations, and local communities to secure over $25 million in funding for Children’s Services in outer Melbourne.

The Interface Councils represent more than a million Victorians living in Whittlesea, Hume, Cardinia, Nillumbik, Yarra Ranges, Mornington, Melton, Casey and Wyndham. All communities, except Wyndham, receive the Leader.

Leader Community Newspapers is part of Australia’s largest newspaper group, News Limited. It publishes 33 titles covering metropolitan Melbourne and reaches 1.96 million readers every week.

Nick Richardson said that local newspapers are ranked second behind friendly neighbours on a list of things that make people feel part of a community.

“Growth areas are about families,” he said. “When people have children they become interested in the community and local news is the number one thing they look for in a local paper.

“The Leader is committed to close working relationships with Councils to further the lives of our readers.”

In 2006, the Leader orchestrated an ongoing ‘Fairer Communities’ campaign across 11 of its newspapers. More than 70 stories were run over a four month period, telling of lack of human services and local people trying to cope with issues such as the state of schools.

This helped to broker a meeting between the Interface Councils and Victorian Minister for Communities, John Thwaites, which ultimately led to $25 million in funding.

“This outcome demonstrates the positive impacts community partnerships can have on local residents,” Nick Richardson said.

Also speaking at the seminar, CPR Communications Senior Advisor, Damian Mannix, discussed how he worked with the City of Whittlesea to successfully lobby for the relocation of the $300 million wholesale fruit and vegetable markets from Footscray to Epping. This will create more than 4,000 new local job opportunities.

“The Government created a shortlist that looked at either Epping or Werribee for the new market home,” he said. “We went straight to the Government to find out what they were looking for and what would persuade them to go with one location rather than the other.

“The Government told us they wanted to go where the market users would be happy.

“With key players, such as Lindsay Fox, in favour of Werribee, we needed a clear message that concisely told the government that market users wanted the market in Epping.”

Damian Mannix said research is crucial. It provides valuable data to frame key messages and helps to identify potential problems.

“After speaking to market users, we found that most people wanted to stay in Footscray,”
Damian Mannix said. “Therefore, we had to work with regular market goers and stallholders to promote Epping as the best alternative location.

“We used prominent and well known market users in our promotional material, and a thumbs up campaign indicated these people were keen to move to Epping.

“If Epping was good enough for these market users, other people would get on board.”

For further information on the LGPro PR Network, contact Imogen Kelly at the Municipal Association of Victoria by emailing ikelly@mav.asn.au.