CHICAGO—The Illinois Bureau of Tourism has retained Edelman Public Relations Worldwide as agency of record on the account, worth $6.2 million over the next three years. Edelman has handled the business since 1993.
The state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity acknowledged that Edelman was not the lowest bidder for the account, and Chicago-area newspapers were quick to imply that the firm might have been selected because of a $32,000 contribution it made the successful 2002 election campaign of Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich.
However, the state is under no obligation to accept the lowest bid for services like public relations, which is not a commodity business and where the quality of both strategic thinking and creativity can vary greatly from bid to bid. Moreover, an incumbent agency can offer greater value for money because it needs less time to get up to speed on the business and the reporters who cover it.
According to Jan Kostner, deputy director of the Illinois Bureau of Tourism, “We used an independent search firm to conduct an intense three-phase RFP process and Edelman surpassed all of the other agencies in every phase. There was no question in our minds that Edelman was the winner with the most strategic, creative and innovative ideas as well as its depth of knowledge of the national and international tourism industry.”
Laura Hunter, a spokesperson at the Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity said the state had negotiated a lower price that that proposed by Edelman.
Cathleen Johnson, leader of Edelman’s global tourism practice, said the firm had played an integral role in marketing the state for 10 consecutive years, handling domestic PR, international PR (focusing on the U.K. and Germany), sports marketing, the planning of the Governor’s Conference on Tourism and for the past two years media relations and event planning for the Ceremonial Opening of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.
“We have served Illinois Tourism for over 10 years, and through 4 administrations—both Democrat and Republican,” says Johnson. “We believe we continue to win the contract because we are the best tourism public relations practice and because our tourism practice is headquartered here in Chicago, in the Bureau of Tourism’s backyard.”