by Matt Rosenberg December 7th, 2011
Attention, contractors with “messaging” skills: King County is seeking requests for qualifications from communications consultants to bid for up to and possibly more than $5.5 million per year in work. Duties include developing strategy, writing, editing, graphics, media buying, video production, web production, publicity, marketing, event planning and other work to promote transit, public health and other county programs. When next-round bidders are chosen and finalists then selected, the county will be free to award them no work at all, or more than the predicted annual amounts for sub-tasks, according to the RFQ specifications. Responses are due by December 20.
Metro Transit needs outside communications consultants, the RFQ document says, to help “leverage and maximize opportunities for increased ridership and enhanced credibility and positive exposure,” and to ‘build awareness of the agency and its services and as new services are launched, to promote those services.” Seattle-King County Public Health needs communications consultants, according to the RFQ specs, to reach the general public plus “at-risk groups, stakeholders and partners, or policymakers” through “public education interventions” and “dissemination of information.”
But the county already employs communications specialists whose job descriptions or duties often overlap with the work for which outside consultants would be paid $5.5 million or more per year. Their 2010 salary information is available from King County via a database created by the Tacoma News Tribune.
The county department of transportation, which includes Metro Transit, has a public affairs division overseen by Rochelle Ogershok, paid $100,610 in 2010. The division’s duties include:
…strategic planning, media relations, web content review, developing and administering communications plans, coordinating communications activities with Executive communications staff and others, producing streaming videos and KCTV programming and the coordination of department public disclosure requets.
The public health communications team already includes one group of manager James Apa, $100,285; plus Educator Consultant III Meredith Li-Vollmer, $68,349; and Educator Consultant III Hilary Karasz, $86,058; with combined 2010 salaries of $254,692. They are joined in the department’s communications apparatus by another group who together earned $243,002 more in 2010. They are Educator Consultant III Nicole Hasenberg, $72,940; Educator Consultant III Audrey Young, $64,453; and Educator Consultant III Matias Valenzuela, $105,609.
Some other departments are also already well-staffed in communications. The county’s Department of Natural Resources and Parks communications team numbers five, earning combined 2010 wages of $435,395. They were Communications Manager Logan Harris, $104,304; and Media Relations Coordinator Doug Williams, $91,438; Communications Specialist IV Glynnis Vaughan, $84,769; Communications Specialist III Timothy O’Leary, $77,464; and Communications Specialist III Kate Karpf, $77,420.
The RFQ says the envisioned communications work by outside consultants will, “when strategically planned and executed…promote and facilitate desired change in beliefs and behaviors.” But some of King County’s experience with behavior change has shown that can be challenging. One study, and then another, found that the county’s widely-promoted, mandated posting of nutrition information in major fast food chain restaurants, did not compel healthier menu choices by patrons, as intended.
Another study authored by a doctor at the county’s Harborview Medical Center determined that an experimental intervention using gift cards to reduce risky drug and sexual behavior by HIV-prone men in King County, was not successful.
And a promotional campaign in which a contractor was overseen by King County to enlist through marketing and promotion 5,000 participants in a pilot program for environmentally-oriented mileage-based car insurance, drew only 13 before it was abandoned, although a new attempt is planned.