Douglas County School District seeks public relations help

Bids sought as communication expenses continue to rise

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The Douglas County School District is looking to hire a public relations firm.

When asked why the school district needs a PR firm, spokeswoman Paula Hans wrote in an email, “We constantly review ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our communications.”

The request for proposal asks for qualified public relations firms to “assist the community relations and development department” in “crisis communications, media relations and training, social media development (and) branding DCSD,” by developing new communication methods and PR marketing/strategy.

The RFP is not posted on DCSD’s website, but on the Rocky Mountain E-Purchasing System website. It notes that the contract for additional communications services will be “a firm, fixed price,” but doesn’t specify an amount.

“This is not a competitive bid,” states the request, which allows DCSD to “select the vendor that best meets the needs of the district,” based on price, products, service capabilities and vendor qualifications.”

The effort to hire a PR firm comes as the district’s spending on communications continues to rise sharply.

In the last six months of 2013, the district spent about $325,000 in communications-related expenses — nearly six times as much as it did in the same six-month period in 2012.

About $217,500 of that was paid to Educational Measures LLC to redesign the district’s website.

Some community members debate the necessity of enhanced communications, including hiring a PR firm.

“As a taxpayer, parent, and grandparent, I question why DCSD needs a public relations firm when it has full-time communications professionals,” said Highlands Ranch resident and business owner Judith Purcell.

“In its request for proposals, DCSD listed `crisis communications’ assistance as (a) PR need. However, DCSD could avoid this need and the associated expense if it stopped creating crises of public confidence in Douglas County.”

Also part of the spike in spending in the latter half of 2013 was $33,000 paid to marketing company Strategic Advantage, reportedly contracted to help write content and produce stories for the district’s electronic and printed newsletters.

District officials say the increase is an investment that pays off in much-improved communications.

“Two years ago, one of the biggest complaints we heard was regarding the quality and quantity of communication,” Hans wrote. 

“Over the last two years, we have invested in our district communication efforts to improve quality and consistency, as well as developing new tools.”