Local Government Criticism When Hiring PR Firms
Two cities have recently come under scrutiny for hiring PR firms to improve their images in the media – Beachwood, Ohio and Natchez, Missouri.
Quite the opposite of their intentions, hiring PR professionals to handle official governmental issues – whether controversial or not – seems to have earned both cities additional criticism and new found mistrust from their citizenry.
The city of Beachwood, Ohio hired Washington, DC-based PR firm kglobal to diffuse allegations of expense account abuse and other questionable privileges by its mayor, Merle Gorden. Beachwood, Ohio and PR Firm kglobal Contract Criticism
Beachwood’s city council hired kglobal – a PR firm specialized in enhancing the image of governmental entities – to defend the city’s reputation from the allegations it believes are unfounded.
The city council believes the attacks against the city and mayor by a few disgruntled citizens lashing out through mass emails and social media have spiraled into an unsubstantiated scandal. Therefore, kglobal’s PR services are necessary to repair the city’s damaged reputation and revive it as a great place to live, work, shop, and invest in business.
In response, Beachwood taxpayers double downed on their attacks against the city and the mayor. Citizen have asserted through press commentary and social media outlets that hiring kglobal to handle PR over their onslaught is another needless expense resulting from the mayor’s wrongdoing. Mayor Gorden is the highest paid public official in the state of Ohio. He is currently under investigation by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor over his questionable travel expenses, perks, and privileges courtesy of taxpayers’ dollars. In June, the FBI subpoenaed documents from a local real estate developer in an eyebrow-raising investigation purportedly involving the mayor.
The irony of Beachwood’s PR predicament stems from alleged wrongdoing on behalf of the mayor according to public outcry. The citizens of Beachwood are in an uproar over the mayor taking advantage of their tax dollars. Now, because of their public protests, tax dollars are being used to muffle their voice. The city seems to have fanned the flame of public criticism by hiring kglobal – the opposite of its intended purpose.
In Natchez, Missouri, taxpayers are skeptical of the city’s decision to hire New York-based PR firm Lou Hammond and Associates (LHA). They feel details of the recent contract are not publicly disclosed.
In August 2016, Natchez will celebrate its 300th birthday. Over the next year, LHA will be in charge of promoting the city and its tourist opportunities in conjunction with the tri-centennial celebration planned next year. PR and marketing relations firm LHA will tell Natchez’s story to the public through national and international news media outlets. The city hopes the tri-centennial will enhance tourism dollars for the community over the next year.
However, the city is experiencing an unexpected backlash from its citizenry because city officials refused to disclose specifics of the LHA contract, most importantly, how much LHA is being paid. This secrecy has raised skepticism among its citizens. City officials declined to release specifics about the LHA contract saying only that it was realistic.
The secrecy has turned into a big PR mistake generating criticism, not praise. It is common sense to expect that the public wants to know the specifics of a contract funded by their tax dollars and that is a matter of public record.