SPRINGFIELD, IL: In a concrete example of how a slew of state budget crises might affect the communications industry, Illinois' budget woes have cost Burson-Marsteller a major assignment with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT).
In December, the IDOT picked Burson to handle communications for a major reconstruction of two Chicago-area highways. PR firms were anticipating fees of $2.4 million to $4 million over four years for their work on the project. However, new Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is facing a projected $5 billion budget deficit.
"The governor and the secretary (of transportation) are reviewing every project, every contract," said Mike Monseur, IDOT deputy director of public affairs. As a result, "the scope of the work has been pretty much changed drastically."
IDOT staff will handle media relations for the project, and a new RFP is being prepared that will focus on community relations, Monseur said.
Regarding spending, he said, "It's going to be reduced from what it was."
Since a final deal with Burson was never signed, the state will seek new bids. "It's no reflection on any vendor who submitted a proposal before," Monseur said.
Robert McEwen, president and CEO of the Midwest region for Burson, said the agency is open to a deferred-funding arrangement or even lower spending, but appears hopeful to retain the account.
"The important thing is that the community outreach be handled professionally and sensitively by a firm regarded as being most competent to execute such a campaign. Burson-Marsteller was judged to be that firm, and we remain hopeful that IDOT will proceed with us as its partner," he said.