How many PR agency owners do you know?

The real question should be is how many PR agency owners does Dayton Public Schools Superintendent Kurt Stanic know? And by the same measure is ignorance of both the law and the fine art of PR an excuse for committing a sin?

Sole-source contracts, unbid contracts, contracts snuck through the back door– are sins. It’s how the US Government becomes a punchline to a joke with $600 toilet seats/hammers/ball point pens.

For a school system that has lost the faith of its benefactors, to the extent that the Dayton Public Schools have, to engage a PR firm from Cleveland on a no-bid, open ended contract with few specifics is a sin. But, maybe Burges & Burges is the only PR agency that Dr. Stanic knows. Unfortunately, at least 15,000 people each month, in Dayton know another one who is entertaining you this very moment. Those 15,000 (and growing) are, for better or worse, the “insiders and influencers” that most PR agencies have to work real hard to establish relationships with (didn’t know that you were so important, did you?).

Combine this online medium with a local Rolodex with 4,000 names phone numbers, personal relationships with key players at most levels and 25 years of living in Dayton and you start to have the resources to know whom to call when a crisis strikes or a message needs to get broadcast. Having the tools to create branding campaigns that transform perceptions in-house and available at a moment’s notice also creates opportunities. PR is a very hands-on business, and having to drive 3.5 hours just to get to work an audience makes it near impossible.

Dr. Stanic and the school board would be making a monumental gaff by hiring a political pollster carpetbagger from Cleveland this afternoon in my opinion, but what’s more important is your opinion- since for the most part, you are the people who need to have your perceptions changed about the Dayton Public Schools.

Some of you have said that no amount of PR will change things. It’s really quite funny, when you consider that VW still makes crappy cars at the bottom of the annual JD Power initial quality surveys, but by changing ad agencies and their message, traffic in dealers and sales increased. Altoids has been around for a long time (100+ years) and packaged in the same tin, yet once an ad agency rebranded it with a tiny $12 million dollar campaign (only rolled out in a few cities) sales took off- “the curiously strong mint.” Good marketing and PR may also be credited to our President-elect. Named Advertising Age’s “Marketer of the Year” Barack Obama was a long shot when he started his campaign. Like it or not, advertising is a trillion-dollar industry for a reason.

Because I understand both the power of open discussion, open meetings, open source and most importantly, open minds, I’m putting my cover letter and my proposal to the Dayton Public School System online for you to review. I have nothing to hide- and it would be open for review anyway. Transparency is one of the key trust factors in brand building, and if I can’t walk the talk, I shouldn’t be part of the conversation. Our motto is “Create Lust- Evoke Trust” for a reason- they are the only 2 factors that count in marketing today.

Hopefully, the School Board will understand that this proposal was done quickly, without any examination of their current budgets, reviews of internal processes and procedures or a database of survey data that was paid for by the School Systems Foundation (that for some strange reason, Burges & Burges won’t release to the Board).

Even if the Board doesn’t want to hire The Next Wave, they should be reviewing my list of Agencies that aren’t The Next Wave before entering into a PR contract. Because, they should know more than one PR agency owner before they hand over $108,000.

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7 Responses

  1. David Esrati January 10, 2009 / 11:49 am

    Note: if you read the proposal or cover letter before 11:48 am today- they have been updated to remove some late night typos.
    Thanks to Pizza Bill and Dad for pointing out my errors.

  2. David Lauri January 10, 2009 / 2:34 pm
    Your “Agencies that aren’t The Next Wave” is a fun way to get search engine traffic of people looking for some other agency who might not have heard of yours.
  3. David Esrati January 10, 2009 / 3:07 pm

    @David Lauri Exactly! I hate to tell you how many agencies have sites that don’t even show up in search. It’s embarrassing.

  4. Bruce Kettelle January 10, 2009 / 3:30 pm
    And thanks to Dave for sharing that tip in his webology seminar I have utilized the list of competitors on several web sites and it really works to bring in traffic that was originally looking for someone else!
  5. GladGirl January 13, 2009 / 1:50 am
    You know, Mr. Esrati, with all due respect, I wish you were in there to change DPS, not sell it.
    No one is going to change my perceptions but DPS. I don’t care who it is or how good they are at what they do. (and I believe your the best.)
    I’ve been reading all your updates on the subject of this no-bid contract and it just reinforces one point, one MAJOR point….DPS does not give a rat’s ass about my kid or my tax dollars. THIS is what they care about.
    Dr. Geri McGill granted a private 2 hour meeting to my husband and I after months of me nagging her staff. We left that meeting two very broken parents KNOWING it was NEVER going to get better in our daughters life time.
    Tony Hall himself returned a phone call to me back then and gave me a very dark history lesson about this district. He told this city what would happen back in the 70’s and just like today, just like with you Mr. Esrati, he was ignored and dismissed. So Mr. E., I have to say, I support you more for the guy who can make a change than for the guy who understands demographics and layout’s and commercials. I hope I see you in office during my lifetime. It might just take the edge off my years of bitterness towards this district.
  6. David Esrati January 13, 2009 / 6:37 am

    @gg-
    Sometimes the right imagery, the right vision- communicated clearly- can have amazing impact. Ford had a major problem with quality in the 70’s- the new campaign “Quality is job 1” was a rally cry for the entire company to start building better cars. They did.
    When I ran for Mayor the first time- one of my major themes was that busing needed to go because it replaced racial segregation with economic segregation. Mike Turner scoffed at me- saying that I should be running for school board. He didn’t see the connection that the schools have with the city.
    It’s time to restore pride in both- by focusing on the good stuff, and building on that- instead of constantly letting the negative drive us into the ground.
    That’s what a good PR firm does.
    They also advise that transparency is critical now, more than ever. So- semi-secret meetings of the school board on a Saturday aren’t the right place to pass things like this from a perception standpoint.
    I’m going to keep trying to get elected- tell 5 friends to start reading this site.

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