Monday, January 17, 2011

LMT is overdoing their call for city to hire local advertising agency

Focus of PR campaign should be success, not hiring locally
The City of Laredo, encouraged by the Chamber of Commerce, the Association of Laredo Businesses Alliance and the Laredo Morning Times has been recently elaborating the need for a public relations campaign to improve the city's image. This time around, the stakes are higher. There is talk of the city being in a criss and a call to arms has gone out. An initial price tag of 1 million dollars for the image makeover has been bandied about. A flurry of action surrounding the subject has been mostly in the form of meetings, press releases and various articles in our local newspaper.

It is the Laredo Morning Time's contribution to this effort that I wanted to write about today. Two of LMT's business journal contributors/columnists, Sean Bowlin & AB Barrera, have decided to focus a little bit too much on the idea that a local public relations agency should be hired for the proposed million-dollar campaign. Although I agree that such an idea is sound and should be considered, it should not become the prime objective of B&B (Bowlin & Barrera). At least, that's the impression this reader got from today's edition of the business journal. Barrera should actually refrain from making too many recommendations in this department being that he is part of PMDG advertising, a local PR firm. A couple of his articles smack a little bit too close to self-promotion and conflict of interest.

I'm sure Bowlin and Barrera have a great deal of knowledge in the field of business and marketing, but perhaps they are not the experts the city is looking for. As an example, let me allude to the customer service workshop Barrera held not long ago. I read that part of the session was a simulation of a scene at a fish market that dealt with customer service techniques. While I may not be a marketing expert, even I know that a fish market-based example was perhaps not the best one to resonate with Laredoans. Is there even a fish market in Laredo? Why in the world would he have not selected the most obvious example, retail : something we see everyday and something everyone here can relate to?

Please remember that Barrera's firm PMDG advertising and marketing already had their chance. In 2009, they had a $300,000 contract with the city of Laredo, which the city terminated in December of that year. The reason cited by the city for ending the contract was that their funds for such advertising and marketing were running low.  When pressed for her opinion of PMDG's performance, Blasita Juarez, now LCVB director did not offer a resounding affirmation. As the LMT reported on Sept. 24, 2009 :

When asked if she was pleased with PMDG's efforts, Lopez said, "We're still on contract with them right now and I would like to reserve comment on that."
According to a copy of the contract received through an Open Records request, the total contractual amount was not to exceed $300,000, payable in monthly installments of $5,733.The minimum payment to be made to PMDG under the contract is $88,800, $20,000 of which would be due upon the agreement's execution. Lopez said all CVB recommendations made to City Council went through as the 2009-10 budget was approved at Monday's session.



  1. You have hit the nail onthe head again, Max! B & B are too self-serving. Let's see how this unfolds.

  2. The discussion is a good one; and those being criticized in your statement deserve the credit for the discussion....AND you for your blog. Remember, this attention is happening in the spirit of moving our city forward.

    The stakes have been high - and not any higher today than a year ago or 3 years ago. We have lost much time, with many of our leaders failing first publicly acknowledge the border violence and then failing to react to act (with any sort media campaign).

    I actually congratulate Bowlin, Barrera, LMT, and anybody else who sincerely engages a productive/real discussion of how to move the City forward. We may not agree, but they already doing more than those with the authority and/or obligation to do so. Since they are on the outside and not the decision-makers, there is no conflict in their writing or in generating opportunities for locals - even if they are in those media circles. In fact, I would encourage them to say what they really feel; and sell that message to persuade the community at large. We should ask that of all stakeholders in any civic process.

    Everything needs a plan, but the key to success is in the execution. We should let professionals do the job and politicians should stop interrupting its execution.

    We have enough professionals in this town to do the job - a good job, if they are left to work.

    Erroneously, your are measuring PMDG over a relatively small $300,000 campaign (with $88,000 in fees) -- that is not a significant investment for any sort of rebranding or marketing campaign for any municipality our size or even a regional product/service. Prior to them, millions of dollars were spent by the City on campaigns that no one even remembers. Do you?

    I encourage you to read up a little on costs of advertising campaigns - especially rebranding ones; you will quickly realize how $300,000 barely begins to brand a message, much less reframe an image.

  3. Thanks for the comment and for reading. No, I don't recall those other, previous campaigns that you mention. Honestly, I didn't follow the local scene that closely until more recently, my fault for that. As far as the $300,000 goes, I can't agree with you that PMDG should not be held accountable for the $300,000 contract. They agreed to that amount and shouldn't have if they thought it was too measly an amount. Those are tax dollars and I am (as you) a concerned taxpayer. I do see your point about giving them credit for raising the volume on this conversation, although, as you noted, it's been an ongoing topic. Thanks again for giving your point of view.

  4. I agree with you, Max, especially with "they agreed to that amount and shouldn't have if they thought it was too measly an amount" especially if they had problems keeping up with their end of the bargain. I also understand that the city has in the past interfered with different ad campaigns including the last one with PMDG, aside from other issues they had. Your point about the "self-serving" nature of the conversations, though, is right on target.