Public agencies spend more on public relations to strengthen their reputation

The city of Chula Vista has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on public relations activities to provide positive news about the city and promote the police drone programs. / Photo by Adriana Heldis

In the San Diego Police Department solicitation video, the camera flashes as a SWAT officer jumps out of a tactical vehicle. A policeman in a four-wheeled vehicle sprints along the beach, focusing on a crowd of passing aerial cameras, and a police siren sounds as a police car passes.

“It’s not the next job. It’s the next level, ”read the opening words of the video.

Fierce 15 second video Is the result of a $ 350,000 marketing agreement between a police station and a private marketing company with a specialized public relations department for government agencies. According to the author, the recruitment campaign was successful. The Loma Media website states that the video “has helped the SDPD accommodate the largest academy class in the past quarter century.”

It was a year after former SDPD Police Chief Sherry Zimmerman. Blame the media California police union leaders also spoke about the sector’s recruitment issues at the 2017 city council meeting. Intended for the media I make a similar claim. Police stations staffed with public relations and marketing professionals can provide the public with their professionally coordinated image.

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Loma Media helped the organization “raise awareness of new initiatives, convey important information, share successes and correct misunderstandings.” Says that.

This type of relationship – a public agency contracted with a private marketing firm for PR and branding campaigns and was once confined to a private domain – is not unique to SDPD.

In fact, many cities and government agencies rely on contracts with public relations firms to manage their messages to the public. In some cases, public relations firms have contracts to oversee service and ad messaging campaigns, while others try to improve the image or reputation of the public sector itself. These public relations contracts are increasingly financed by public funds every year.

In 2011, San Diego County spent nearly $ 500,000 on public relations contracts, according to county records. In 2020, the county spent more than $ 15 million on just three contracts. The biggest contract of the year was the Department of Health and Welfare’s Suicide Prevention Campaign, which totaled $ 14 million.

The increase in spending is due to the increased availability of grants the county can use to cover these projects, said Michael Workman, county communications manager. PR and marketing companies have access to technical capabilities and resources not found in the county, so they are actually subsidized through their help in running health campaigns such as health mental and renunciation. Workman said he could still raise funds for the company.

The county itself employs more than a dozen communications officers. Their work focuses on direct communication with the general public, including handling media inquiries, social media, graphics, and technical support for press conferences and meetings. Work outside of the PR firm is separate from work on the communications team, said Workman.

Loma Media’s website has more than 100 clients, including the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Branch, Navy SEALs, and defense contractor General Atomics. Other public relations groups, such as Cole Pro Media, also working with SDPD, have clients made up exclusively of police stations and local governments.

In an email, San Diego Police spokesperson Sean Takeuchi said in an email that he would work with Roma Media and Cole Pro Media to “build trust with all the communities we serve. . Your capacity will increase. “

Cole Pro Media has also helped SDPD increase its social media presence. Reported by KPBS Last year. The Vacaville-based group works with police stations above and below the state.

Laura Cole, a former reporter who runs Cole Pro Media, also runs another company, Critical Incidents Videos. Mercury News Reported earlier this month. The latter is under review for support Police cuts, splices, video frames There is also an opinion that this justifies the shooting of police officers.

Many PR contracts SDPD has provided to VOSD so far contain vague explanations of the types of work companies have been hired to do. In many cases, the contract simply states that the company will perform “media service” without any additional information. Most of San Diego’s public relations spending over the past decade has been on the police department, but VOSD is still waiting for more contracts to be released by the city.

“There is nothing more important to us than to be open, honest and transparent. We must continue to develop our best communication practices.

The following year’s SDPD budget, proposed by Mayor Todd Gloria, provided space to purchase executable software. “Neighborhood sentiment analysis” Use the seized asset funds. In an email, Takeuchi said the SDPD would like to use social media to vote on public safety issues and assess the effectiveness of ongoing outreach activities.

The types of public institutions in the county range from police to local public services with the help of public relations experts. The same goes for the types of projects that PR companies work on.

In Chula Vista, public relations experts helped officials shape media history and compose the city with better light. The city was created Gain the attention of external media with a drone program as a first responder, In part with the help of public relations experts.

The goal of a 2011 contract with High Beam Marketing for $ 50,000 was to create a strategic public communications framework and process roadmap for consistently and systematically disseminating positive news about the city. It was about shaping perception to more accurately reflect positive attributes. Chula Vista. “

In response to requests for Chula Vista’s PR and marketing contracts dating back to 2011, the city police station said it had nothing.

Other Chula Vista contracts in recent years have sought to create a city brand that attracts visitors and educates the city.

Anne Steinberger, Marketing and Communications Manager at Chula Vista, says these efforts have been successful. The $ 400,000 contract with NV5 “increased awareness and attendance at Chula Vista attractions, events and destinations. It has increased awareness and active participation in social media. And we’ve improved our social media program by continuing to use #ThisIsChula as one of the most popular hashtags on social media platforms, ”she said in an email.

On the ocean side, the city has spent millions of dollars on public relations contracts for the city’s water sector alone over the past decade.

According to Terry Brown, who works for the city’s administrative office, the city does not have a dedicated telecommunications staff. Instead, they go out to ask for help when communicating with the masses.

Most of the work has recently been done in the water sector, with more than $ 200 million in equipment improvement projects per year, including water conservation, solid waste and recycling, protection of watersheds and habitat. Brown says he understands environmental programs such as restoration.

Some of these projects have confused the entire city neighborhood, and residents have questions and complaints. Public relations firms can play an active role in this.

“Contract public relations staff serve as a point of communication between the project manager and the general public, answering questions about the project, dealing with conflicts, educating the general public about the project and organizing neighborhood meetings. Helping Staff… Support includes resolving customer issues, 24/7, ”Brown said in an email.

Oceanside also paid for police public relations. After a summer of racial justice protests in San Diego following the murder of George Floyd in September 2020, Oceanside officials said, “Improve community understanding, awareness and reputation for public safety and the legislation. We signed a $ 25,000 contract to increase public confidence in our business. Execution, ”says the contract.

Oceanside Police Chief Fred Armijo said through a spokesperson that police hired a consultant after receiving comments from protest organizers about the lack of communication with the public. The deal ended in February. The agency is currently looking for the first full-time spokesperson since 2003.

In small towns, public relations contracts have helped develop brands and products, attract visitors and businesses, promote community wealth, and encourage participation.

For example, La Mesa signed a contract with MJE Marketing in 2018 and planned to “develop communication channels and tools that would be recognized as the most accurate source of municipal government information,” the contract says. This includes brand positioning, newsletters, community engagement, and social media.

In El Cahon, a public relations firm helped design the city and distribute public recreation guides and city newsletters. In Escondido, another company has helped the city increase its social media presence.

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