Fans of irony gather ‘round.
A public relations goof spanked the city of Chicago when it—ready for this—considered spending $50 million on outside contracts with public relations firms despite potentially devastating revenue shortfalls.
Last month, the city inked deals with three communication firms at $5 million a pop, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. That’s on top of at least one public information officer in each city department, plus the mayor’s press office with its 15 staffers and $1.2 million annual budget.
Mayor Richard Daley also keeps a personal PR pro that he pays from his campaign fund.
Meanwhile, the city is reducing services, hiking fees and laying off 929 city workers due to the revenue shortfall hurting almost every American city.
Turns out the city’s permanent staff of PR pros and three outside firms weren’t enough, though. The Sun-Times also reported that city officials considered signing $5 million deals with seven other communication companies. An aldermanic outcry prompted city officials to shelf those deals.
The city’s official press secretary, Jacquelyn Heard, told Chicago media that payment to outside public relations firms would be suspended “indefinitely.”
"When we're having the kinds of budget issues we are, it seemed like absolutely the right thing to do," Heard told local media. She added:
When you're trying to alert millions of people to hundreds of city programs, it's understandable that you need to go beyond the current level of staffing. But many of the other programs dialed back were also helpful and this is no different. You have to live within your means. Sometimes you have to make tough choices.