Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Il viaggio a Italia

Real life interfered with blogging life for a while. I had a lot of work to catch up with, and then I was preparing for a fabulous two-week visit to Italy with my mother. She goes to Italy every couple of years, and it's my turn to go with her. We will go to Pompeii, Florence, Bergamo and Como (the last two are in Northern Italy in the mountains). I set up a travel blog, please visit!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Not enough lipstick

So now our fiscally responsible Jefferson County Commission wants to hire 'em some PR. According to an article in the Birmingham Business Journal, they've put out an RFP (Request for Proposal) for someone to do "multimedia public relations including radio, television, newspapers and magazines."

OK, so are these the same "radio, television newspapers and magazines" that the Commission thinks AREN'T telling the great things the county is doing? The "media" who are just focusing on the negatives - you know, like cutting out $26 million dollars from arts programs that are one of those positive things that we could tell people about except well, we won't HAVE them anymore.

And I guess these are the same media outlets that get eleventy-hundred self-serving press releases a day (full disclosure - as a PR person I've sent my share of them, which is how I know this) and the commission actually thinks that their PR guy/gal is going to get a serious reading of them?

No, what will happen is that the firm will come back and tell the Commission that they will have to buy time if they want their message out. And that's more taxpayer money getting spent to tell taxpayers they're not getting ripped off, that everything is fine, just move along now, and whatever you do, don't look behind the curtain.

In 2004, the County Commission had a $250,000 contract with a PR firm, and that didn't even include the cost of the ads. By 2006, the county had spent $202,000 for PR work over 15 months, and $320,000 more to print and mail four newsletters (Birmingham News, April 2, 2006)

There's always a question about how money could be better spent, but considering that the County Commission is thought of just as highly (actually lowly) today as it was in 2004, even though it's a new group, the argument could be made that $570,000 of OUR money was spent on programs that didn't work. Maybe it could have been better spent on crime prevention programs or parks or potholes.

If you're doing your job, a communications or PR pro can help you communicate with the public. If you're doing a lousy job, the only thing PR does is wastes money and makes the public and press even more cynical. And if you keep doing it, then, well, it's the definition of insanity.

Sorry guys, you can call yourselves fiscally responsible conservatives, but you're just trying to put lipstick on a pig.