Ind. hires NYC-based PR firm to “ramp up” image

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A worldwide public relations firm is now representing Indiana in an effort to “ramp up” the state’s image. The Indiana Economic Development Corporation or IEDC announced the hiring of Porter Novelli Monday.

While the news comes after the fallout from the religious freedom law, IEDC said the partnership has been in the works for some time.

“IDEC and state tourism office have wanted to ramp up our reach to people beyond the state of Indiana, across the nation and beyond. We want to really amplify what it is to be here in Indiana, to live here, to play here, to visit, and to do business here. Clearly, this decision is being made in the context of the recent controversy. It gives added impulse to the decision. It’s just yet another reason really to amplify what Indiana is and tell people our story.”IDEC Executive Vice President Chris Cotterill said.

Indiana’s religious freedom law got national attention, some positive, but mostly negative. The state said that backlash helped speed up the decision to hire the New-York based public relations firm, Porter Novelli.

“This is really intended to choose a company that can help us really from the outside looking in, help assess us, and see these are the kinds of things we think you can do that are new and exciting to bring what Indiana really is to more people and hopefully bring them here to Indiana,” Cotterill said.

With 90 offices across the world, Porter Novelli’s client list includes many household brands like UPS, T-Mobile, and Disney. The firm is also responsible for the anti-smoking “Truth” campaign.

“We really made a deliberate decision and said we have a good sense of ourselves, shouldn’t we be asking someone, a group of people who have a different kind of experience, maybe a different perspective outside looking in and help us think more aggressively, more broadly about Indiana and how we communicate to people,” Cotterill said.

IDEC said the decision to pick Porter Novelli came after looking at a number of different firms.

“The fact that they are all over the world was one of the factors. They have an incredible expanse all over the world and some great expertise. We had a number of conversations with them, did a fair amount of research on our own, a lot of deliberations internally. It just felt right about Porter Novelli. We felt they had the right balance of skills, expertise, and tools that they could bring to the equation that we don’t have in house. Like most things, you do an evaluation and you pick a lot of good options and you pick the best one, and we think we did that here,” Cotterill said.

IEDC said the state has great PR firms, but it felt it really needed that outside perspective. It’s something local PR expert and Vice President for Asher Agency Anthony Juliano called a smart move.

“There’s always a challenge when Indiana state government hires from outside the state, but sometimes there’s good reasons for that. Sometimes, there’s expertise that they can’t tap into locally. Sometimes, the objectivity that comes with being out of state brings better answers because they’re not as engrossed in this issue as maybe a firm in Indianapolis or maybe Fort Wayne might be,” Juliano said. “There’s room for improvement here, and what it appears the state is doing is they’re looking to outside expertise to say what is it we should be doing and I think that’s smart because a lot of times, we can’t be objective about our own problems.”

The state hasn’t given a price tag for the contract or a timeline of how long the partnership will last. It said, though, it is looking to make a significant investment. It also said Indiana is not unique or alone in hiring externally because many other states have done the same.

“The announcement marks the beginning of a new approach and a high degree of collaboration between the office of tourism in the state and the IDEC. It’s that marker that is beginning the development of the relationship with Porter Novelli, so the scope of that contract, the cost of that contract, the length of it, all of  those things are continuing to be discussed so that we spend the right amount of money to get an incredible output for the benefit of Indiana,” Cotterill said.

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