Vicarious Multimedia will continue to assist River Forest staff members with the village’s beefed-up communications program for three more months following action by the village board on June 28.

Since March, Vicarious, based in Arlington Heights, has been assisting with the village’s website; Facebook and Instagram channels; the weekly E-newsletter; and the monthly full community E-newsletter that includes information from other taxing bodies. With administrative staff shorthanded since Eric Palm left his village administrator post in February, the decision was made to hire a third-party consultant to assist with communications work, using funds that had been budgeted for salary/benefits in the administration department, which were within the spending authority of Lisa Scheiner, the acting village administrator. However, Scheiner’s spending authority for this engagement has been exhausted, requiring approval of the village board to continue using Vicarious’ services, which was given unanimously June 28. The contract will cost $17,600 for the three-month period.

In a memo to the village board, Jonathan Pape, assistant to the village administrator, and Sara Phyfer, management analyst/deputy clerk, explained that the quantity of communications the village produced throughout 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic had increased to keep pace with the changing circumstances and in recognition of the village’s position as a trusted source of information. Although the necessary frequency of the communications has decreased since the height of the pandemic, staff members have realized the benefits of distributing briefer, more frequent communications.

A request for proposals for communication services was distributed in December, and Vicarious was one of three firms interviewed, ultimately being engaged for an initial term of three months, March, April and May. The contract was subsequently extended for an additional month. The village has paid Vicarious $19,999 for four months of services.

A presentation, June 28, by Melanie Santostefano, founder and president of Vicarious, was generally well-received by elected officials. In her presentation, Santostefano explained that Vicarious, which she founded in 2004, has experience with municipalities, currently serving five in the Chicago area. In addition to working with local government, the multifaceted communications firm works with closely-held businesses, nonprofits and professional associations.

Since March, Vicarious migrated the village’s E-newsletter format to Constant Contact and assisted in the creation of a robust social media content schedule. As a result, the E-newsletter subscriber list has increased 3.4 percent and the social media engagement has increased 13.3 percent.

Based on recommendations by Vicarious staff members, the village plans to redesign the monthly full community E-newsletter and launch Nextdoor as an additional social media communications channel. The redesigned E-newsletter would be an eight-page digital-only publication with the first issue appearing in August. Nextdoor is a hyperlocal social networking service that focuses on neighborhoods.

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