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.”

2 comments on this story | Add your comment
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MegMasten

I'm speechless. (Perhaps I should hire a PR firm?)

Monday, February 17 | Report this
sarnold

Paula Hans, DCSD’s new public information officer, previously served as a Media Relations Specialist for Aurora Public Schools. Below are the responsibilities she managed for Aurora Public Schools. Can someone explain to me why DCSD needs a PR firm to handle communication when Paula has these skills? Exactly what will she be doing as a full-time employee of the already bloated DCSD communications department?

● Pitch interviews and story ideas to local and national media outlets; host press conferences; and

write and distribute press releases.

● Create design and write content for marketing materials including brochures, ads and annual

reports; write and edit content for district website; and develop talking points and communication

plans.

● Serve as member and media representative of the Incident Response Team for all crisis

communication situations.

● Host informational media response training for district staff and board members.

● Create and produce videos and photography projects for district website, YouTube, Facebook and

other social media outlets.

● Assign story coverage, photography coverage and translation needs to communication department team members.

Tuesday, February 18 | Report this