Make us your home page
Instagram

It's round two for mayor's idea to hire social media 'influencers' to promote St. Petersburg

Visitors fill the third floor of the Salvador Dali Museum under the museum's Enigma's 75 foot- tall bubble window, which is comprised of 1,062 triangular pieces of glass. Mayor Rick Kriseman wants City Council to approve spending $92,500 to hire "influencers" to promote the city's brand on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

Visitors fill the third floor of the Salvador Dali Museum under the museum's Enigma's 75 foot- tall bubble window, which is comprised of 1,062 triangular pieces of glass. Mayor Rick Kriseman wants City Council to approve spending $92,500 to hire "influencers" to promote the city's brand on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]

ST. PETERSBURG — The "influencers" are back.

In early March, Mayor Rick Kriseman was criticized for a last-minute attempt to get the City Council to approve spending $225,000 on influencers — social media stars — to market the Sunshine City's good vibes.

Council members balked at the request to hire influential individuals who would have promoted the city to their followings on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and other platforms. They complained that the mayor's office submitted the proposal too late for them to vet or debate the idea. They tabled the measure.

But the mayor is set to give it another try at today's council meeting. This time, Kriseman is asking only for $92,500 to start spreading his vision of the St. Petersburg brand.

If the council approves the proposal, the influencers could start work by late June or early July — in the midst of Kriseman's re-election campaign.

In March, Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin and mayoral spokesman Ben Kirby insisted that the influencers campaign had nothing to do with electoral politics. A city marketing official reiterated that Wednesday.

The contract would go to Sparks Branding House, a Tampa marketing firm. The list of social media stars who would market the city would target the national market, not local residents, said St. Petersburg Creative Services manager Nina Mahmoudi.

"So, by design, it would be talking to people outside St. Pete," Mahmoudi said.

The program's intent is to raise awareness about the city's economic development potential and its arts and culture scene, she said, not to reach St. Petersburg voters.

She said similar programming from Tampa Bay's tourism marketing agencies, which has long been used to draw visitors, doesn't push the message St. Petersburg wants to get out.

"That's tourism marketing," Mahmoudi said. "We're focused on economic development. That's a totally different target audience and completely different messaging."

She added that the mayor's idea is backed by a recent study from the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce and the city that concluded a branding effort would help elevate St. Petersburg's profile in terms of culture and economic development.

Mahmoudi said the city does not plan to employ any social media stars from St. Petersburg. But she didn't rule out hiring from the Tampa Bay region.

Kriseman's idea has already become a campaign issue. Former Mayor Rick Baker, who is running against the incumbent in the Aug. 29 primary, told the Tampa Bay Times at his May 9 campaign rollout that he considered the influencer idea to be a prime example of his opponent's "reckless spending."

City Council member Charlie Gerdes plans to vote for the measure, saying his work on the Pinellas County Tourist Development Council has convinced him that social media marketing works. But he had not considered its potential political uses.

"I could see how that could happen," Gerdes said, "but it wasn't in my mind."

Contact Charlie Frago at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow @CharlieFrago.

.IF YOU GO

Influencers discussion

What: St. Petersburg City Council meeting

When: 3 p.m. today

Where: Council chambers, second floor, City Hall, 175 Fifth St. N

It's round two for mayor's idea to hire social media 'influencers' to promote St. Petersburg 05/18/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 10:35pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pleasant dreams: sleep travel site gives high marks to Tampa airport

    Airlines

    TAMPA — Traveling might be considered closer to a nightmare than a dream for many. But that might be different for those who travel through Tampa International Airport. It was ranked the No. 3 overall best airport in North America by Sleeping in Airports, a travel site that tracks the best airports to catch some …

    Tampa International Airport was ranked as the No. 3 best overall airport by travel site Sleeping in Airports. | [Times file photo]
  2. Google parent leads $1B Lyft investment, deepening Uber rift

    Business

    SAN FRANCISCO — Google's parent company is throwing its financial support behind ride-hailing service Lyft, deepening its rift with market leader Uber.

    This  file photo shows a smartphone displaying the Lyft app.Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc., is throwing its financial support behind ride-hailing service Lyft, deepening its rift with market leader Uber. [Associated Press, 2016]
  3. ReliaQuest opens storefront in mock city of JA Biztown

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — ReliaQuest, a Tampa-based cybersecurity company, opened a "storefront" Wednesday at JA Biztown. The storefront is part of a mock city where students learn economic concepts and run businesses. About 20 real-life Tampa Bay companies sponsor storefronts that local students get to run for a day as part of a …

    ReliaQuest, a Tampa-based cybersecurity company, opened a "storefront" Wednesday at JA Biztown, a mock city where students learn to run businesses. | [MALENA CAROLLO, Times]
  4. Love My Dog owner promises to treat dogs like her own

    Business

    SOUTH TAMPA — Lots of folks daydream about quitting their jobs to play with dogs, but shortly after moving to Florida 15 years ago, Natalie Conner actually did it.

    Some happy customers at the grand opening of Love My Dog Pet Resort’s third location in South Tampa on Oct. 14.
  5. Family brings edible cookie dough to Collins Produce stand

    Business

    VALRICO — Like anybody with a sweet tooth, Scott Laviano has been known to sneak behind his wife, Rose, while she bakes cookies and steal one of the dough balls from the baking sheet before it hits the oven.

    Scott, Rose and Scottie Laviano have opened Eddie Bull’s Cookie Dough inside Valrico’s Collins Produce.