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Public relations for public relations



NOTE: This post was updated on March 4 with added documents.

Is $30,000 a lot for a public school system to pay for a strategic communications plan?

Jason Pepe, the Hillsborough district's communications manager, thought some people might think it was.

So, at Tuesday's School Board meeting, Pepe handed reporters a list of consulting jobs that have been done by some of the firms that competed for Hillsborough's business.

Think of it as PR for PR, although technically some of the jobs were described as strategic planning, not public relations. 

The jobs, culled from bids to the district, include: 

* $118,000 for a "comprehensive communications strategy and change management services" for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, paid to Metajourn.

* $400,000 for Florida Polytechnic University, paid to Sparxoo. This covered "market planning, integrated digital marketing, market analysis, focus groups and website development."

* $290,000 for the Pasco County Schools, paid to TransPro. According to Pasco district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe, the firm developed a strategic plan for the district, and "did not do anything related to PR." 

* $125,000 for the Martin County School District, also to TransPro. Similar to the Pasco job, this money paid for a strategic plan, a performance card and "guided a rollout communication plan."

By those standards, the sum of $30,000 -- which translates roughly to 3/4 of a teacher's starting pay -- is fairly low.

Addressing the board Tuesday, Pepe said, "our students, our teachers, our principals, they create miracles every single day and our community needs to know about their hard work and amazing accomplishments."

In an email later, Pepe provided copies of the request for proposals, and Tucker/Hall's bid, which both contain detailed information about what the district hopes to accomplish in the "Scope of Work" sections.

Pepe also had this to say:

"The contractor's scope of services is quite comprehensive and includes an assessment of current practices, a strategic communication plan, a crisis communication plan, along with staffing recommendations. I encourage readers to review the scope in its entirety before reaching conclusions about its utility.

"Our students and teachers deserve praise and commendation for their incredible work. Like any organization (public or private ) we have areas to improve. Although media outlets choose to report on mostly negative aspects of the district, the truth of the matter is that most of our employees work incredibly hard to support our students. We must value teachers and treat them as professionals. Our community deserves and benefits from a fair and balanced view of our district. Thus, the Communications department strives to inform our community of our students' achievements, our partners in education and our employees' excellence."

It's not yet clear how long the district will retain Tucker/Hall, beyond the first year. Superintendent Jeff Eakins said he wants a communications plan that will match up with the board's overall five-year strategic plan.

He also wants input in hiring the next public affairs officer, to replace the long-gone Stephen Hegarty. He wants Tucker/Hall to work with Hegarty's replacement to establish protocols and figure out the best ways to communicate to the public, the media and a workforce of 26,000.

The deal was approved unanimously.


[Last modified: Friday, March 4, 2016 7:20pm]


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