Mark McDermott

El Segundo hires PR firm to $450,000 contract to assist in economic development

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The City Council voted unanimously last Tuesday night to retain the services of a public relations firm, a key part of the city’s stepped-up economic development strategy aimed at attracting new businesses to El Segundo.

Paolucci Communication Arts, a Palos Verdes-based firm that has helped revive the images of clients including La Paz, Mexico, and Hollywood Park, was awarded a three-year, $450,000 contract.

The firm was chosen from a field of seven applicants by the city’s nine-member Economic Development Advisory Council (EDAC), a nine-member commission composed of civic and business leaders tasked with retaining and attracting businesses.

EDAC chair Brian Polkinghorne, a local businessman, said the advisory council spent 130 hours interviewing PR firms in an intensive process out of which Paolucci emerged the clear choice.

“It was a long process and we are very pleased to have Paolucci,” Polkinghorne said. “They had fresh and new ideas. We learned from the other firms, as well. We have some ideas.”

Only the first year of the contract with Paolucci is guaranteed;  the firm will be reviewed annually and its contract brought back to the City Council for reapproval. Costs will be funded through a $200,000 economic development grant from Chevron, another $15,000 grant from Continental Development, and $235,000 from the city’s General Fund.

Drew Boyles, another local businessman and EDAC member, reflected on what a vice president from tech company Riot Games said when he spoke before the advisory council. The company nearly relocated to El Segundo last year but instead moved to Santa Monica.

“He told us, ‘You’ve got everything going on. You made our short list. You would be a great potential city for our 1,000, soon to be 2,000 employees. But frankly, no one knows who you are in the technology space….Your biggest challenge is taking this gem of a city and getting the word out there will a really well structured and strategic awareness program,’”  Boyles recalled.

Boyles said the key difference between Paolucci was the firm’s experience working with other cities and helping them reshape their image and  “bring them out of obscurity.”

“We deliberated a lot with last three firms, and Paolucci just kept coming back with creative solutions,” he said. “We felt like they best understood of how to position specifically a city — not just a client, but a city — innovatively, and how that is different.”

Paolucci will build a “brand identity platform” for the city, producing everything from logos to photo and video images, an ad campaign, and eventually a “guerilla marketing” strategy. The firm will also be tasked with the city’s “online presence and reputation management.”

Councilwoman Suzanne Fuentes praised the firm but emphasized the importance of being able to measure the effectiveness of its work. Councilman Carl Jacobson stressed the city must retain the ability to get out of the contract, if necessary.

“We need to look at it certain things in the future we don’t have control over,” Jacobson said. “We may have to change things, so I want to make sure this is one year, then one year, then one year.”

“El Segundo already looks good,” Fuentes said. “But I’m sure they can make us look even better.”

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