Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Schools Superintendent sought PR advice for State of Schools address

Jim McIntyre
In the days prior to delivering his mid-February “I am a human” speech (often dubbed the State of the Schools address) in front of several hundred people at Hardin Valley Academy, Superintendent Jim McIntyre held a private presentation with three of the area’s top ranking public relations gurus.

They included Susan Richardson Williams of SRW & Associates, Cathy Ackermann of Ackermann PR, and Mike Cohen of Cohen Communications Group.

All of them, I’m told, worked for free, which is a good thing, considering taxpayers are already on the hook for a more than $900,000 communications department for the Knox County Schools Systems. (This also isn't the first time the three have met with McIntyre and given him advice by the way.)

The speech was actually written by McIntyre, and from what I understand the trio made no major changes, although one member told him to hammer more on one particularly part, which I have now forgotten. Sorry.

The plan, in part, behind McIntyre’s speech, which included a number of references to his family, his parents and grandparents and featured photos on the screen behind him, was to better “humanize” the superintendent.

He often comes across, a number of people told me, as “cold and uncaring” and the goal was to change that. (Note: No one actually said he was cold and uncaring, but rather that’s how he comes across.)

The address, his third since he came to Knoxville via Boston, Mass. In 2008, is technically designed to serve as a report card for the district.

Ackermann (photo taken from her site)
This one, however, comes after teachers, students and parents have publicly berated the school board and the superintendent for what they say feel are unfair testing and evaluation measures.

McIntyre wanted a more personal feel to the address. But, he also wanted some “experts” to view it, especially after his disasterous “happy holiday’s” video in which he reminded everyone about how the school board extended his $223,000-a-year contract another 12 months, and then wished everyone a Merry Christmas. I kid you not. You can findthe video right smack here.

(Now, I don’t fault the superintendent for seeking a second opinion, despite paying a couple of his PR folks more than $90,000 a year each. I just question why he didn’t have them watch that holiday video. Heh.)

Anyhoo, I digress.

I’m told that the attempt to make him more personable didn’t really work. The people in attendance already support him, so he didn’t need to impress them. And the people who don’t support him? Well, there is just nothing you can do to change their minds.

Instead, McIntyre should have taken the state of the schools address on the road, much like Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett does when he delivers his annual budget presentation. Burchett goes into the community, meets with smaller crowds and answers questions.

He does this without all the carefully, crafted spin.

Now, I don’t know if it would have helped the superintendent, but it would have certainly been something different for a change.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Am I the only one that finds this odd? A person who makes $233K+, accepts advice or is solicited advice that would not be readily accessible to the general public for free. Nothing is free, that's the first rule of politics. Why would someone seek PR advice when you already have a PR representative? What do these groups have to gain by helping a public employee of who just happens to be the Superintendent of Knox County Schools? What does the Superintendent have to gain by using these groups to receive “anything of value” to promote his image? For Pete's sake at least pay for the services. Now you can really start looking for someone on the school board to pick an ethics violation other then Mike McMillian.

Solicitation or acceptance of gifts.
No public officer, county employee, or candidate for nomination or election shall solicit or accept “anything of value,” including a gift, loan, reward, promise of future employment, favor, or service, based upon any understanding that the vote, official action, or judgment of the public officer, employee, or candidate would be influenced thereby. Further, no employee or public official shall solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, on behalf of himself or herself or any member of the employee’s household any gift, including but not limited to any gratuity, service, favor, food, entertainment, lodging, transportation, or any other thing of monetary value from any person or entity that:
- has or is seeking to obtain, contractual or other business or financial relations with Knox County;
- conducts operations or activities that are regulated by Knox County; or
- has interests that may be substantially affected by the performance or non- performance
of the person’s official duties.
Misuse of public position. No public officer or county employee shall corruptly use or attempt to use his or her official position or any property or resource which may be within his or her trust, or perform his or her official duties, to secure a special privilege, benefit, or exemption for himself, herself, or others.
In the meantime he will never get his image past this video

Good luck digging!