City expected to OK contract to improve its public relations

March 12, 2003|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

The city Board of Estimates is expected today to renew the contract of a consultant hired last year to improve how city government develops and delivers its public image.

The new agreement will pay Michael Cryor $150 an hour to continue his work of restructuring the communications office that handles the public and media relations of Mayor Martin O'Malley and city agencies.

Cryor has earned about $45,000 since he was hired in November at an hourly rate of $125. He is expected to complete his work by August at a potential cost to the city of $100,000.

Cryor said he does not expect to take that long to finish his task and that he has been charging the city one-third his usual fee. Some City Council members have criticized O'Malley for funding such improvements to his public relations staff while slashing the budgets of other city services.

But Councilman Kenneth N. Harris Sr. said Cryor's work is a crucial part of delivering those services. "You can be the best mayor in America, but if you're not articulating your accomplishments, it doesn't do you any good," Harris said. "You have to tell your story, and you have to let people know what you've done."

The city has more than two dozen employees who write press releases, plan public events and craft messages from the city's largest agencies, including police, fire, housing, transportation, parks and public works.

Cryor, co-chairman of the Baltimore Believe campaign, conducted the search for O'Malley's new press secretary before hiring Raquel Guillory last month. Guillory has been a radio reporter and was a spokeswoman for former Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

Cryor said he may also recommend hiring a communications director to manage citywide public relations from O'Malley's office.

"Misinformation is poison," Cryor said.

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