This past weekend, thethat the City had hired an Illinois company for $72,000 to, “teach it how to communicate with the public through Twitter, Facebook and other interactive forms of social media.”
Once again, writer Kevin Leininger managed to inflame the situation by mentioning only the part of the story he felt inclined.
There’s a bit more to it than simply teaching it to communicate with the public through social media.
According to the contract between Carolyn Grisko and Associates:
- Deliverable # 1 – Development of website and e-newsletter tool; development of media outreach plan; message development (September 2010)
- Deliverable #2 – Development of media materials; social media analysis; implementation of media relations plan (October 2010)
- Deliverable #3 – Development of social media plan; social media tool development; implementation of media relations plan (November 2010)
- Deliverable #4 – Implementation of social media plan; social media measurement and tracking (November, December 2010)
So, it’s not only about Facebook and other social media outlets, but also about an on-line presence in the form of the City’s website and branding and how to play better with the local media.
There are, however, several questions this brings to bear.
- Why did we have to go to Illinois for this? There are several high calibre public relations firms right here in Fort Wayne that could have handled this mission. There are also many gifted individuals in this community that are social media experts (and no, I’m not including myself) in their own rights – why weren’t they at least consulted about possible directions? Why were they overlooked?
- As far as developing a social media tool, Allen County Government has done this as well as Fort Wayne Parks and the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory. Why reinvent the wheel? Why not brainstorm with these other entities to develop the City’s version of a ‘social media tool’.
- I think, that you my readers would agree with me on this: this website provides the information generated in the form of press releases by the City in their entirety without spin nor commentary. I do the same thing with press conferences that I cover – provide video of the entire event instead of the 10 second sound bite or random sentences you get in the print media. And yet, covering the press conferences has been hit or miss for me as until only recently, I was not included on the City’s Media Advisory e-mail list. I’ve asked about this on and off over the past three years. But, the long list of PIO’s that have come and gone has only added to the hassle of being approved for the list. I’d just get to know one PIO, when suddenly they would be gone. Former PIO Joe Fox immediately put me on the list after our first conversation. Just like that. But, even that was not without a hitch. For some reason, I did not receive notification of the recent City Light Lease press conference. This was the second time, since being added to the list, that I didn’t receive notification of an important event. I receive, with all due respect, notifications about the most inane of matters, only to have the important ones skip me. So, the question is, will bloggers be included in the new media relations plan and will access be consistent?
- Again, with all due respect, do City employees and the Administration really want to hear what we residents are thinking? More importantly, will time be taken to respond appropriately? If you start soliciting responses from residents, you’d better be prepared for what you receive. We constantly hear how stretched our City employees are in carrying out their essential duties. Do we really need to saddle them with the time demands and stress involved with hearing from citizens? Back when Mark Becker was Deputy Mayor, he and I had this same conversation. Well, ours, to put a finer point on it, was how and if the City should embrace bloggers as the ‘new media’. We both were aware of the time demands this would place on those in the Administration who would be charged with handling them. It was and is a valid concern. But again, you can’t throw the opportunities out there and then not respond or follow through because you don’t have the time. Has the Administration really thought through the time a ‘social media plan’ would demand?
- This Administration has had a problem with knowing what, when and how to reveal information. For instance, the signing of a second contract with the High Performance Government Network to clarify the first and the hiring of consultants to lobby the State’s General Assembly for a gaming referendum, the numerous consultant contracts that have been controversial and questionable and now this, the initiation of a new media handling strategy. How will this contract change the reluctance to truly provide citizens with the knowledge of what the Administration’s agenda is – thereby avoiding having their message lost in the ensuing damage control?
- I’m going to end my list of questions with this most important one – exactly who is going to use a City Facebook or Twitter page, and will the return be worth the investment?
Let’s look at some numbers. Allen County has a Facebook page with 235 members. They also have a https://twitter.com/allencountyinfo Twitter account with 589 followers. Allen County also participates in Nixle which is a free service to help with emergency and crisis communications. It sends subscribers text messages directly from the Allen County government. True, it’s ‘push’ and not ‘pull’, but it still can be a valuable tool in the event of a crisis. This is absolutely free to both the Allen County government and subscribers – unless you have to pay for each text message you receive. According to Allen County PIO Mike Green, they currently have 21 subscribers.
The Fort Wayne Parks department also has a Facebook page with 2,668 fans and a Twitter account with 143 followers. They also set up a Blogger account, however, it hasn’t been updated since January of this year. This reinforces the questions set forth in #4 above.
A lot of this will be dependent on how the City markets these new social tools. But, the even bigger part will be how they use them, frequency of that use and the quality of information provided.
It will be interesting to see how this develops and where it goes. I can see some value in this for the City as far as the media handling plan, website and e-newsletter development and the message development (might this be also called, ‘branding’?), however, I don’t think the City has thought through the ramifications of the social media thing.
Talent Made Here
This is an initiative rolled out in September by the Northeast Indiana Fund to promote science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, opportunities in Northeast Indiana. (View the press release here) Catchy title and a good message.
However, there’s a problem.
The Northeast Indiana Fund hired One Lucky Guitar to help develop the campaign. According to One Lucky Guitar’s Matt Kelly, they in turn hired Explore Media out of Elkhart, Indiana for video production services.
A quick visit to the Talent Made Here website and in particular a brochure about the program, shows that Elkhart is not inside the area covered by this program.
Again, why are we going outside of our area? Was there no one inside Allen County or the area covered by this initiative who has the ability or talent to produce the required videos? I can think of four or five such companies/individuals off the top of my head who could have answered the call.
One Lucky Guitar is a private business, obviously not bound by a ‘buy local’ policy – unless your definition of local stretches to include Elkhart. However, and I think I’m accurate in this, the Northeast Indiana Fund does receive funds from the City of Fort Wayne and possibly County of Allen. The ‘Talent Made Here’ initiative is funded solely by an endowment from the Lily Foundation (Correction). Perhaps in the future, buying local first should be an understanding for anyone working with them on such a campaign, especially one titled, ‘Talent Made Here’.
– News-Sentinel – 6th November 2010
Fort Wayne Deputy Mayor introduces Chicago style cronyism – Angry White Boy – 6th November 2010
Do We Really Want Talent that IS MADE HERE? – OurSpace Fort Wayne – 8th November 2010
– Journal Gazette – 9th November 2010
– WANE-15 – 9th November 2010