08/05/12 — Costs for city not just new PIO

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Costs for city not just new PIO

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on August 5, 2012 1:50 AM

Kim Best

Despite the hiring of a public information officer, the city of Goldsboro will continue to contract out video services to a third party as it seeks to promote its programs and services in the community -- and is on track to spend more than $100,000 on public relations in the new fiscal year.

Kim Best, who was hired in February as the city's public information officer -- a newly created position -- was brought aboard to help share the city's stories with the public through print ads, annual reports, e-newsletters, fliers, brochures, video production, television production, utility bill inserts and the Internet, but she hasn't been doing the video work alone.

The city has continued to contract with Xpress Communications since Mrs. Best's hiring. City Manager Scott Stevens said his goal with the public information officer was to have her organize, plan and host shows.

"What the city manager has asked me to do is to organize the videos, to organize who is going to be in each video and lay it out for the year," Mrs. Best said, explaining why a contracted videographer is necessary. "I'm not going to be able to produce every single video that comes out of the city of Goldsboro from Center Street Jams to Downtown Living."

And that is especially true now that the city is hoping to expand its reach, particularly through online videos and shows on its cable channel.

"It works best when you have a camera person and a story line person," Stevens said. "You need to have somebody who understands lighting and scene."

And while Mrs. Best said she has video editing experience, she said she wasn't familiar with the software the city has. She said she plans to get more acquainted with it as time passes.

But Stevens said the video projects he anticipates the city taking on in the near future will aim to capture the everyday, behind-the-scenes stories that citizens probably miss out on as they observe city employees performing services.

Video projects explaining the city's pothole-filling process and highlighting the stories of employees will require Mrs. Best to engage personnel who otherwise might not have much experience with interviews and public relations, he said.

"Some of what I want to do is to showcase our normal employees and what they're doing," he said. "It takes somebody to organize and make that make sense."

The city contracts with Xpress at $50 an hour, Mrs. Best said, which is a discount from the $85 an hour rate advertised on the Xpress website.

Last year the city used Parker and Associates for a bit of its video production as well, mostly during the first part of the year.

The city ended up spending $14,338 for video work with Xpress and $4,594 with Parker during fiscal year 2011-12.

Xpress, owned and operated by Jim Hinnant, picked up the city's work when Parker was no longer able to complete it last fiscal year.

Stevens said he anticipates the city will eclipse last year's spending totals on video production this year because of its new focus on using videos to engage citizens. The 2012-13 budget allocates $30,000 for that line item, the same amount as last year, although Stevens said he doesn't necessarily expect to exhaust that amount.

"We should be doing more than we've done historically so that's still a defensible number in that line item," he said.

The payment for the video service in previous years was all through Parker and came out of the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. budget, Stevens said. The average then was about $20,000 a year as well.

Last fiscal year an additional expense of about $18,000 was used to purchase computer and camera equipment and furniture to support the new public information officer position.

Additional financial support for projects would come from the budgets of specific departments using the marketing tools and from a new position within the city's Information Technology Department.

A new web developer/computer systems administrator -- Hinnant's son, Brad, was hired for the job within the past month -- will help to do some of the video work in house.

"When I need to be in front of the camera to host, he can do it," Mrs. Best said of the new hire. "He and I can work together and he can also be a backup."

Mrs. Best's salary is $58,000 annually while Hinnant's is $40,347.

Although Stevens and Mrs. Best both said she would be mainly charged with hosting shows, acting as the city's spokesperson, which necessitates the additional person, there are videos hosted by DGDC Promotions Coordinator Meg Gernaat that are produced by Xpress Communications as well.

Since the city joined YouTube April 9, it has uploaded 28 videos which have attracted 1,820 views while the city's Vimeo page, which premiered about a year ago, has 106 videos.