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Commitment for greater representation of the public relations entities in the municipalities - the position of the ZELS Network of PR persons
2 јули 2018

network of municipal persons for public relations organized a consultation on June 29, 2018, at the premises of the ZELS Training Center. The topic of the consultation was "Managing internal communication - an important condition for transparent operation of the municipality". After the revision of the members of the Network, the counseling was the first meeting in this composition. ZELS Deputy Director Ardita Dema Mehmeti addressed the participants and introduced the role of ZELS, its organizational structure and the lobbying successes of ZELS for resolving the challenges of the local authorities and providing better legal solutions for the implementation of the transferred competencies.

It was emphasized that even after 13 years of implementation of the local government in our country, the municipalities, especially the smaller and rural municipalities do not have employed PR person, nor have envisaged such job position in their systematization. The main reason is the lack of financial resources for this type of employment, or there are no media in the municipality, which indicates that they don’t have enough knowledge about the role and function of the public relations entities. In certain municipalities, the activities in this area are performed by an official, who besides his professional obligations realizes "ad hoc" activities as a PR person.

Neglecting the existence of a professional person for public relations in the municipality is often a direct indication of lower level of municipal transparency and insufficient mutual communication with its target public. Article 8 of the Law on Local Self-Government stipulates that informing the public is municipal duty, respectively municipalities are obliged, without any compensation, to inform the citizens about their performance, as well as the plans and programs important for the municipal development in the manner determined by the statute, as well as municipalities are obliged to enable citizens the access to the basic information for the services provided in a manner and under conditions regulated by statute. Throughout this process, due to inadequate management of the internal communication in the municipality, citizens remain uninformed about important issues with local importance.

The municipalities with a city center are at a certain higher level related to the employment of public relations professionals, as well as informing the citizens, although in these local self - government units the role of the PR persons is more referred to the relations with the media and daily "coverage" of the mayor's activities. However, these municipalities pay greater attention to the internal communication, namely to the detection of all activities and acts arising from the municipality, for which the public should be informed transparently on time. The municipal transparent and accountable work is a mirror and a picture of well established internal communication, therefore this is the first point on which the public relations should pay the greatest attention.

In that direction, as one of the good practices was presented "Internal communication in the municipality of Karpos". The Head of the Department for Public Relations, Violeta Cvetkovska presented the overall internal communication process of the municipality, particularly highlighting the activities of the public relations employees with the colleagues and all heads of departments and sectors, as well as the mayor in order to timely and fully inform the citizens. It was pointed out that the awareness of the Heads of the departments is raised to that level they should daily deliver and ask the public relations department to present their activities to the citizens.

The internal communication process realized in the Municipality of Kocani was also presented as one of the successful practices. The Public Relations Officer Ljubinka Ajtovska spoke about the importance of organizing collegiums in the municipality, as main source of information for the PR persons, as well as for the cross-sectorial information. -"It is a very bad situation when the municipality performs something and the PR person is not informed, because the PR person has to pull the chestnuts out of the fire in case of crisis" said Ajtovska. She pointed out that the municipality has prepared an annual Public Relations Program, as a statutory obligation for each municipality, as well as a Public Relations Strategy.

Very interesting practice was also presented by Ljiljana Strojanovska, a person for public relations and cooperation with NGOs from the municipality of Kriva Palanka. She highlighted that at the municipal web portal there is a special section "Public Relations", where among other things are uploaded all collegiums’ reports, with detailed description of the discussion and guidelines for further action. She pointed out that the municipality, for the past two years, is a first-ranked municipality of the "Open Transparent Municipality Index", meanwhile the municipal website is ranked at the third place, at the institutional level in the country.

The participants expressed their commitment for greater representation of the public relations persons in the local government and strengthening their capacities through trainings provided by ZELS. One part of the trainings needed for quality implementation of their obligations is the preparation of the Public Relations Plan and Strategy, "Public Relations Tools", "Internal communication", "Protocol" and "Crisis PR". Considering that this profession marks the most dynamic and fastest changes in its practicing, it is of utmost importance to ensure continuous upgrading and training of these persons, as well as quick and efficient exchange of the experiences gained during their performance. ZELS is always committed to ensure equal development of all its members, therefore its commitment is enable to quick and efficient exchange of the good work practices of all areas, in competence of the local government, as well as providing training for the employees.

It was agreed the next meeting of the network members to be organized in the middle of July, when will be held training on the preparation of the "Public Relations Program" and "Review of the list of mandatory information that the municipality should put on its website ".


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