POTTSTOWN PA – A Jenkintown PA-based public relations and marketing research company, The Communications Solutions Group, was hired Tuesday (Feb. 26, 2013) by the Pottsgrove Board of School Directors to tackle the job of what Superintendent Shellie Feola described as “visioning and re-branding” of the school district.
The company will be paid about $12,000 annually to produce quarterly issues of the district’s “The Pottsgrove Achiever” newsletter; another $1,500 to conduct three separate marketing focus groups to gauge stakeholder perceptions about the district, and $1,500 more to create a marketing campaign complete with “concepts and taglines” to be used across the newsletter, a new district website, and future communications efforts, Feola said.
The use of public relations experts to help polish its image is not new to Pottsgrove or unique among western Montgomery County districts. Pottsgrove has for years budgeted to pay others, including former Philadelphia area radio reporter Beth Trapani, for handling some public relations tasks.
Amounts to be paid to The Communications Solutions Group, Business Administrator David Nester acknowledged, represent “a slight increase in cost” over current PR expenses. Directors voted 6-3 to use money from revenues earned through its corporate sponsorship advertising representative, Market Street Sports Group, to cover the difference.
The divided vote, which was counted by roll call, caught board President Scott Fulmer by surprise. “So much for smooth going with a full board,” he joked aloud. The minority objected primarily to use of the advertising revenues for what was expected to be a recurring, and not one-time, payout.
Objections to paying for any public relations were raised by professed school board candidate Rick Rabinowitz, who contended that improving student educational results better burnished the district’s image than a marketing campaign. “I argue this is not a good idea,” Rabinowitz said. “We’d be better off spending our money on something more tangible than public relations and branding.” Fulmer thanked Rabinowitz for his comments but offered no other reply.
Feola in recent weeks has made a concerted effort to respond to what she said were comments from parents and others with whom she’s met about their “interest in activities that will build a sense of community” in Pottsgrove.
The district subsequently began publishing “Board Notes,” a multi-page summary of school board decisions that is distributed by e-mail within hours of its meetings. The board on Jan. 22, at Feola’s suggestion, expanded the duties of former Director of Technology Michael Wagman by designating him as its new director of technology and communications. It has increased its use of social media, primarily Twitter and Facebook. And the district is expected to debut a new website design and enhanced online tools in mid-summer, Feola said.
Related (to the Pottsgrove Board of School Directors’ Feb. 26 meeting):
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