Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bad PR from the PR Guy in Richardson

Silver Jubilee plaque

Queen Elizabeth II is looking forward to celebrating her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, marking her 60 years on the throne. Expect parties and parades in celebration. Expect markers and plaques to be installed to serve as a reminder of the celebration long into the future. For example, even today, 33 years later, walk between any of London's key attractions and you will notice discs embedded in the sidewalk honoring the Queen on her Silver Jubilee in 1977.

After the jump, Richardson's own discs.


Richardson bond plaque

Do a Google search on "Greg+Sowell" and the first two hits returned are an article from January, 2010, announcing his hire as Richardson's director of communications and an article from this week announcing "Bond-funded projects to get bronze markers in Richardson." I don't know what Greg Sowell has been up to between January and November, but he probably should have stayed below the radar for a little longer. This PR move is an embarrassment for him and the city. From Ian McCann's blog post in The Dallas Morning News:

"Communications director Greg Sowell said each [disc] costs $45, and the city has bought 50 so far. He said not every project will get one, and the medallions will be placed in high-traffic areas (where people are most likely to see them) on things like sidewalk projects.

He said the idea for the markers came about because he thought it would be a neat way to recognize that projects were a part of the $66 million bond package. 'I was trying to think of a way to do that -- branding and communication,' Sowell said."

Branding is OK. But brand the city, not the bond package. If you want to put fancy bronze medallions on the new fire station and rec center, that's fine. But have them say "City of Richardson" and the year of construction and leave off the "2010 Bond Program." If you must, during construction of each project, put up a plywood sign saying something like "Your tax dollars at work," but when the construction equipment comes down, the signs should, too. Sprinkling these "2010 Bond Program" discs all over the city is just bush league. The 2010 Bond Program is not the Queen's Silver Jubilee. Dial it back a notch.

Even if you really, really, think this is a good idea, at least solicit private contributions to pay the $2250 cost of these plaques. Almost half of Richardson's voters didn't want to spend any tax money on these projects in the first place. Using taxpayer money to buy plaques bragging about the vote just rubs salt into their wounds. It's unnecessary. It's stupid.

Now, Greg Sowell, please get back to work on the priorities for the new Richardson director of communications that I identified back in January. They are so much more important than your neat branding idea. (Did a director of communications really use the word "neat"?)

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