Coordinating their efforts

The Political Game

Memo: The governor's communications team plans to put him in the spotlight by marketing the state's services.

July 06, 2004|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

ONE BY ONE, public information officers for various state agencies arrived at the second floor of the State House on Wednesday for an unusual meeting.

The governor's communications office wanted them together to discuss "creating a statewide communications, marketing and advertising effort that will improve how we communicate with Marylanders about what the governor and state agencies are doing to deliver services that will make their lives better," according to a memorandum from Paul E. Schurick, head of the governor's communications office.

The Ehrlich administration is launching an effort, in effect, to "brand" Maryland, with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. as the face of the campaign.

State agency Web sites should look more alike, with a cohesive and distinctive feel, officials said. And the agencies should be looking for promotional opportunities that bring different divisions together and include the governor as a headliner.

"In order to get maximum exposure, the governor has agreed to aggressively increase his availability to appear at agency events in order to gain wider exposure and thus helping promote state agencies to their constituencies," Schurick wrote.

Schurick announced in the memo that two state staff members will be taking on new roles to help in marketing.

Ed Blakely, a marketing specialist now in the Department of Business and Economic Development, will be head of a newly created department of strategic communications.

"Ed has years of experience in the private sector working on large branding and communications efforts as well as serving as a television and radio producer/director for an advertising agency," Schurick wrote.

Dennis M. Castleman, who worked in the business department's tourism, film and arts office, has been named state marketing officer.

"Dennis, and his team, will be managing selected communications, marketing and advertising projects -- drawing from the database of statewide talent that we will be identifying within all state agencies," he wrote.

"This is exciting because we are not creating a new bureaucracy but rather reaching out to those in state government who are currently promoting their agencies and asking them to join us and become part of a statewide talent pool to help market the state."

The effort comes as Ehrlich is receiving exposure as the voice and image of the state's regional tourism effort.

"Seize the day off" radio and television advertisements, featuring Ehrlich offering to mow your lawn or clean your gutters while you enjoy your day off in Maryland, are flooding the airwaves during Orioles games.

A willing audience of brand-new voters

Maryland Democrats have seized on a new way to register voters: solicit them at theaters before and after they've seen Fahrenheit 9/11, the much-ballyhooed Michael Moore film that critiques the Bush administration's Iraq policy.

Democratic activists have been dispatched to theaters across the region, armed with voter registration forms that state party Executive Director Josh White says are eagerly filled out.

"This is a grass-roots effort," White said. "Probably five or six people came up with the same idea at the same time."

White said the effort is proving successful: 75 voters were registered in a single night at the Old Greenbelt Theater in Prince George's County, he said.

"It's really easy to register people to be Democrats at these theaters," he said.

GOP fund-raising plan that's good for business

The Baltimore County Republican Party has hit upon a novel way to spread the Bush re-election message and evade campaign finance limits, while helping a GOP-owned business.

In a recent letter to supporters, county party Chairman Chris Cavey said he had a goal of raising "$5,000 for Bush 2004 supplies to be used right here in Baltimore County."

"The new FEC regulations only allow our local party to spend $4,999 toward the president's campaign," the letter continues. "However, we Republicans are resourceful and motivated. We are allowed to act as a clearinghouse for your checks to purchase materials."

The party is asking supporters to mail it checks made out directly to The GOP Shoppe, an Elkridge business owned by Brian Harlin, a Republican activist who sought appointment to a House of Delegates vacancy in Howard County last year.

"We will then collect all checks and deliver them to the GOP Shoppe, our supplier," Cavey wrote.

For every donation of $25 or more, donors will get two lawn signs and four bumper stickers.

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