Weber County approves $94,500 contract for comprehensive PR services

Friday , June 30, 2017 - 5:15 AM1 comment

CATHY MCKITRICK, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — Weber County Commissioners recently approved a $94,500 contract with Salt Lake City-based Dicio Group for a whole menu of public relations services. 

In its response to the county’s request for proposals, Dicio Group pledged to deliver “transformative changes in the way Weber County communicates with constituents.” That includes a proactive press plan that supplies content to area media, along with op-eds and letters to the editor. 

Dicio’s objectives include highlighting Weber’s economic advantages while discussing improvements to poverty and crime; marketing the county as a premier business and leisure travel destination; enhancing transparency; and further establishing Weber County as a visionary thought leader.

According to the contract, new county branding will be one of Dicio’s initial outputs during its first month on the job.

Weber’s trio of elected commissioners approved the Dicio contract June 13, which adds another layer of public relations and marketing to that of the county’s current communications director. Before getting elected as Ogden City Mayor, Mike Caldwell held that position, and Holin Wilbanks has since served in that slot.

In 2016, Wilbanks was paid $83,762 in wages, $24,471 in benefits and also received a $900 cell phone allowance — for a total compensation package of $109,153.

Prior to his vote on the Dicio contract, Commissioner Kerry Gibson noted that Wilbanks is now focusing more on economic development.

“So this is a little bit of a change in approach ... but the need is still there,” Gibson said. “It’s important that people know early and ahead of time as much as possible when something is going to affect their lives. We have to do a better job in this technological and digital age of communicating.”

“What she’s doing now has morphed and changed as the needs of the county have,” Commissioner Jim Harvey added. "Her title is wrong — and her job description needs to change.”

A rigorous selection process was used to award the contract, Harvey said, with seven companies competing for the job. After two rounds of interviews and references, the Dicio Group rose to the top.

And Harvey’s hope is their work will improve transparency and help people find key information about doing business in Weber County.

While the Dicio agreement received no opposition, less costly contracts for services aimed at addressing intergenerational poverty (IGP) roused push back.

Last December, Commissioner Kerry Gibson voted against two IGP contracts for facilitator services, one for $7,500 with PTM Strategies, the other for $12,000 with LSI Business Development. Gibson reasoned the county should stay within the $15,000 grant provided by the state.

RELATED: Weber County OKs contracts to steer fight against intergenerational poverty

At a subsequent commission meeting last December, Gibson also voted against a $90,000 year-long contract with Michael Lindenmayer of Linden & Linden for a new systems approach to tackle intergenerational poverty. That 12-month effort involved attracting social impact investing dollars that would be targeted to boost Weber’s economy and help lift children out of poverty through education, inspiration and workforce development.

During that Dec. 13, 2016, Commission meeting, Gibson lamented the lack of concrete benchmarks in Lindenmayer’s contract. “When we’re starting new programs, we have to be able to show there’s a benefit to our taxpayers,” Gibson said.

RELATED: Weber Commission divided over consultant, intergenerational poverty contract

At its six-month mark — this June — the Linden & Linden contract was supposed to come up for renewal through the end of 2017, but so far that has not happened.

Lindenmayer and his wife Kseniya organized TEDx Ogden, held June 16, 2017 at Peery’s Egyptian Theater. Batman movie producer Michael Uslan was among the event’s 12 scheduled speakers and nine performers.

RELATED: First TEDxOgden event aims inspire the community

According to Harvey, “we’ve gotten a lot of awesome ideas from Lindenmayer, and he’s been a part of the visioning to move the county forward.”

Harvey also credited Lindenmayer with introducing new software to streamline governmental processes and how the county does its contracting.

But he also felt the Dicio Group’s work is key in reaching the younger generation that receives news and information primarily through social media and digital sources.

“It’s vital they’re included in everything we do, especially in being transparent and open with the public,” Harvey said.

Weber’s three commissioners handle both executive and legislative duties for the county and each of them oversee 13 to 19 service boards. In addition, Gibson is responsible for Operations, Ebert for Administrative Services and Harvey for Culture, Parks and Recreation.

Commission Chairman James Ebert said he’d asked Lindenmayer to submit a new contract that would alleviate some of the issues and concerns people had with the other one.

“It created some political turmoil. At this point I don’t have a contract to bring to Gibson and Harvey,” Ebert said.

But Ebert hailed TEDx Ogden as an amazing event.

“We’re in the process right now of getting numbers and feedback, and producing some video from it,” Ebert said. “We had  folks from other TEDx events who were very complimentary of what we did.”

Contact reporter Cathy McKitrick at 801-625-4214 or cmckitrick@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @catmck.

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