Friday, September 30, 2022

Council Seeks to Improve City of Newburgh’s Image

The Newburgh City Council is one step closer to hiring a marketing and public relations firm and is expected to recommend The Setroc Group to improve the city’s image. The discussion came during a Council work session meeting last night.

City leaders have been interviewing several marketing and public relations firms in response to a request put out several months ago. Council members are in talks with The Setroc Group, which gave a presentation during last night’s work session.

Council members explained that when issues come up facing the City of Newburgh, a public relations firm can address it. They would be able to handle external marketing to draw in tourism, internal marketing to keep residents updated on community events and city administration happenings, and keeping in touch with the media. Council members and The Setroc Group leaders all agreed that they need to control the narrative going out to the media.

Setroc Group CEO Francisco Cortez, a U.S. Army veteran, explained that each of the company’s leaders are former journalists. “We’re very locally focused and community focused,” he stated.

Jose Martinez, the Chief Marketing Officer for The Setroc Group, noted that he and his peers have worked for the Associated Press, ABC News, CNN, and News Corporation. He personally spent 20 years in New York City working for broadcast media.

Setroc advisers explained that a quick Google search of the City of Newburgh results in mostly negative information. They seek to distribute positive information and “control the narrative” of information put out about Newburgh.

Whichever firm is selected would first need approval by the City Council. It would be included in the November budget for the firm to begin work on January 1, 2023.

Councilman Anthony Grice has been pushing to hire a public relations firm for the last three years. “It’s about community outreach and engagement so that more people are aware of what we’re doing, especially with their taxpayer dollars,” he pointed out. “It does help with tourism, it does help with small businesses that are here, and it does help with just the general feeling of our residents having pride in their city.”

Grice described the current City policy in which all press releases go through the City Manager before they are issued. He said that someone accused city leaders of hiding crime but was adamant this is untrue. “We report all of our crime to the Department of Criminal Justice Services,” he stated. “We don’t have to report it to the media, but we do.”

Grice observed that there at at least “five times” as many positive happenings in the City of Newburgh that are seldom heard about than the negative incidents. “Just trying to change that narrative is super important to us,” he declared.

Councilwoman Ramona Monteverde conceded that she was originally opposed to Grice’s idea to hire a firm three years ago because of budget concerns, but admits now that Grice was correct. “I was always a naysayer, but I think at this point because of all the positive things that are going on in the City of Newburgh,” Monteverde explained, “People need to know about it.”

Monteverde used the recent fatal fire as an example. “There’s just so many rumors that fly around,” she added. “We need to be in control of our narrative.”

Councilwoman Giselle Martinez said, “I am always going to be looking out for Newburgh’s image.” She says “outsiders” have always “looked down” on the City of Newburgh because of its reputation in the media. She expressed her belief that there are “very few” reporters who are neutral and tell a story honestly.

Councilwoman Omari Shakur reiterated, “This is why they call us Newsburgh, we always have a story.”

Councilman Robert Sklarz pointed out, “There’s great work being done by city staff. There’s wonderful work being done by city residents that goes unnoticed.”

Sklarz also expressed his feelings toward certain media outlets. “Many of the members of the press focus on clicks, focus on negative information,” he said.

Cortez replied to Sklarz, “I can’t control what any media outlet prints.” However, Cortez explained that The Setroc Group can control distributing good news so the media sees it. “It’s going to take work,” he said.

“The Times Herald Record has always been pretty much whatever they can print bad about Newburgh,” Councilwoman Patty Sofokles stated. She agreed that a firm would be beneficial to the City of Newburgh. “Things are happening here that have never happened before,” she added. “It’s very necessary”

Mayor Torrance Harvey was the last to speak and declared that hiring a firm is long overdue.

Harvey said, “We can help identify the media outlets that support the City of Newburgh in a genuine way, not to say there are always going to be positive stories, but those that do journalism with integrity and do it in a way that’s honest, that’s fair, well balanced, and transparent.”

“And then there are those media outlets that don’t, that aren’t ever favorable to the positive, but only report on the negative,” Harvey continued. “As my colleagues said, we want to control that narrative.”

“We all may have our disagreements,” Harvey went on, “But this is the best city government that I’ve ever seen.”

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