Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More Business Blunders in Auburn

In my previous entry, you discovered two reasons why you should not establish or relocate your business in Auburn, Taxachusetts. I'm still incredulous that the Chairman of Auburn's Board of Selectmen simply "solved" the problem of excessive commercial taxes by encouraging businesses to "go to Millbury" (a neighboring town that is far more favorable to businesses).

There is another chapter to this story, though. This chapter is especially relevant to me and my profession (Public Relations and Marketing).

It starts a few months ago, with the Auburn Chamber of Commerce's search for a marketing communications firm to help it build awareness of the benefits of doing business in Auburn and increasing the Chamber's outreach and PR profile. My consultancy was one of three firms interviewed for this important contract, along with Penta Communications (a full-service firm in Westboro) and a firm in Sturbridge called Smith & Jones. The Chamber's Business Development Task Force--seven prominent Auburn businesspeople--interviewed each firm.

I prepared rigorously for the interview, recommending to the Task Force a series of PR and marketing initiatives designed to meet their goals as I understood them. Working to my advantage were the following factors: I live in Auburn; I know three people on the committee (one of whom is a client); and I addressed every single aspect of the RFP. I told them how many hours I felt the effort would require and my hourly rate. I assume Smith & Jones did the same. That's the way these interviews go in the normal world outside Worcester.

Penta Communications received the contract.

I later learned that Penta Communications received the contract because they offered to do the work pro bono. Well, you get what you pay for.

Penta Communications did what most of the firms in this area do when they give away or discount work: They redesigned the Chamber's logo, provided boilerplate guidelines on how to use the logo, and submitted some rudimentary marketing ideas. Nothing substantial, because they have to devote their resources to paying clients. The mentality: "We're the experts, we have all the answers, you should listen to us."

As far as I know from my sources, Penta didn't take the time necessary to understand Auburn's unique challenges. They didn't interview business leaders. They didn't provide a PR plan or suggest any concrete measures to address Auburn's core problems. They redesigned a logo. As if a simple redesign were the answer.

Penta hasn't responded to the unfavorable article in this week's Worcester Business Journal--not a letter to the editor, not an op-ed, nothing. I don't expect they will.

Why should they? They're not getting paid. You get what you pay for.

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