Councilman Jim Kenney’s relationship with Twitter appears to be complicated.
The same Councilman who two years ago threatened to sue Twitter over flash mobs works with digital marketing firm Chatterblast with a $28,800, 12-month contract to manage, among other aspects, his Twitter account.
And it’s become quite the story: from the Daily News to the Associated Press to Fox News, all of which focused on the idea that Kenney was paying a third-party to tweet for him, when everyone else on council uses internal staff.
After the news cycle pumped the story, Kenney and Chatterblast staff told Technically Philly it’s overblown.
“I looked at my staff’s skills and responsibilities, my operating budget, and the demands on my office and determined it would be best to partner with an outside expert firm for social media communications,” said Kenney, 53, in a statement released for Technically Philly, noting that he sought out a Philadelphia-based firm. “Many other council people have communications consultants or in-house staff to handle some of the scope of services provided, in most cases at a much higher cost.”
Instead, as the Daily News first reported, the story has focused on a five-figure contract from Kenney’s legislative budget, the third highest in council, which includes $650,000 in salary for 10 staffers. Kenney says he’s freeing up staff to do other tasks, while getting good value from a local firm.
“We manage an ever-evolving digital strategy for his office which includes Facebook management, Twitter management, influencer outreach, community feedback, audience identification and analysis, monitoring of key issues, constituent communications services, video production and editing and general advisory services as it relates to his digital online footprint,” said a breathless Evan Urbania, one of the cofounders of Chatterblast, the same firm that is leading the Philadelphia Parking Authority online strategy.
No doubt that social strategy is becoming increasingly commonplace in business and government, and, as Kenney points out, the contract is a pittance in regards to a $3.5 billion city budget.
“We are engaged for 12 months, seven-days a week, with five people serving the account and hundreds of hours of service delivered during the course of the contract,” said Urbania, 32, who noted Chatterblast has more than 60 clients. “For perspective, we have many other clients that pay fair prices for our services, sometimes up to four times what was quoted in this article.”
In recent years, an entire industry has developed around social strategy and Kenney, to be sure, is not alone in availing himself of consultants to help him along the social media learning curve. Though the Daily News reports that he is the only Philadelphia council member to do so.
Despite the bluster, the cost isn’t particularly extravagant. What could be of graver concern is that Kenney is paying for Chatterblast’s services out of his legislative budget, not his campaign budget, as the Daily News reports.
But, while a slippery slope is easy to spot, in Kenney’s case, his Twitter account @JimFKenney, for example, is clearly focused on constituent services, and, apparently with Chatterblast’s help, it is robust and fits common social media culture.
So, though some may want a legislator to show forward-thinking by embracing a powerful communication tool, there is likely little difference between outsourcing social strategy and other constituent services.-30-
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