Did Renzi Stone and Saxum Rip Off ODOT? - Oklahoma City Website Development

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Did Renzi Stone and Saxum Rip Off ODOT?

odot1When I first heard about the Oklahoma Department of Transportation paying $7500 to Saxum PR for a Twitter account, I admit it: I was enraged. Then I read the story and started thinking.

I like to think I can see things from the perspective of a service provider–a company that provides similar services to those provided by Saxum–and also from the viewpoint of the customer. I am also a consumer; I don’t like being cheated or charged more than a service or product is worth.

Setting up a Twitter account is free. Yes, it’s free and it takes 5 minutes to do. It’s also really simple…it consists of entering your email address and choosing a user name, basically.

But Saxum did more for ODOT than just set up the account. They apparently provided 10 days worth of consulting and training to the staff at ODOT. Okay, so that works out to $750  per day, if they charged them nothing to set up the account. Figure they sent out one or two staff people to the ODOT offices to do this, that works out to $375 per person per day, or about $9 an hour…and I KNOW those Saxum folks make more than that.

They also created a custom Twitter “look” for the ODOT page. So throw in a few hours of time from a graphic artist, who also makes considerably more than $9 an hour.

So say $250 to set up the Twitter account, $300 for the graphic artist, that leaves you about $700 a day for training. $700 a day for training for a group of employees is incredibly reasonable.

The ODOT staff are presumably tweeting now, thanks to their training. But they had to get some followers. To get 500 Twitter followers within a couple of days of launching your account is pretty darn good (think Ellen Degeneres and Oprah Winfrey). Saxum undoubtedly did some footwork to gather followers quickly for ODOT.

So to say that ODOT was charged $7500 for a “free service” is really not accurate. Yes, a Twitter account is free…but they got a lot more than a Twitter account.

Saxum is doing all of us in this industry a favor. They have set a price tag for service and expertise that is consistently undermined and undervalued.

“Anyone can make a web site!” “Anyone can write a press release!” “My nephew can shoot that video, he has a Mac!” How many times have we heard this!?

Yes, anyone with a camera can shoot a video. Yes, you can get “web site tonight” for $10 on Godaddy and probably get a web page set up. Will it be effective? Will it do the job you want it to do for your business? Will it convert customers? Will you be able to get any information from it on how it’s performing? The answer is unequivocally NO.

It’s almost always true that “you get what you pay for.” ODOT needed a turnkey solution rolled out in a very short time frame. Saxum delivered.

By the way, Oklahoma Media Group provides these services too…but we don’t have the overhead Saxum does. We can help your business engage consumers and gain new customers. Let’s talk about how Twitter (and Facebook, and other social media, and an effective web presence) can help your business.

  1. Helen Pals10-27-09

    I hear the “Anyone can make a web site” logic all the time as an event planner. I mean, anyone can put together an event, right? Thanks for your article. It exemplifies why we hire professionals to give us the look and feel we want. It also shows how we often “undercharge” for our services when you look closely.

  2. Houghton10-27-09

    I can see both sides of this debate. On the one hand, you make an excellent point that Saxum has simply stood for offering a quality service to those who needed it. Time is money and money is time. It may be that ODOT simply felt it was better served by paying those with the knowledge to avoid headaches and mistakes.

    On the other hand, I think an argument could be made that 10 days of training for something like Twitter is excessive. I think ODOT has a communications staff of more than five people. The skeptical pessimist in me wonders if they *really* couldn’t figure this out? Could they really not figure out how to use their massive in-house photo stock to paste one in the background of their Twitter feed, or how to load their departmental seal?

    Additionally, one could make the reverse argument of what you’ve proposed: That Saxum has actually undermined PR professionals by making it appear we’ll overcharge for something as rudimentary as setting up a Twitter feed and then showing people how to use it. There are dozens of examples of Twitter feeds being set up by sole proprietors that generate thousands of followers.

    I’m not saying that Saxum ripped anyone off. I know people there, and I think they do a good job. Saxum has also done a great job of being a “social media evangelist” and leading the way in this arena.

    But I also think that many PR and ad agencies (ahem, cough, Ackerman McQueen) that were used to the old model of charging big bucks for their “special knowledge” and creating an esoteric smokescreen around their craft are having trouble finding their footing in this new Web 2.0 era.

    While it is true, as another commenter has pointed out, that “anyone can make a web site” logic seems to prevail currently, it is also true that creating a web site isn’t as difficult or as expensive as it used to be. On many levels “anyone can make a web site” and a darned good one! The same could be said of video, which used to cost great gobs of money. One can find talented videographers now able to offer a nice product for a fraction of the cost from a decade ago.

  3. Adam10-29-09

    Lets look at things from the tax payers perspective. I do tweet and I’m not a social media service provider that wishes I could have done if for $5,000.

    ODOT has many resources at their disposal to generate followers. They can blast it all over their electronic signs over I-44, they can use the portable electronic signs that say “Follow @ODOT on twitter.” So I don’t buy the “they did get 500 followers in a few day” argument.

    I understand that professionals develop campaigns and should get paid for it, I get it. But does ODOT really need help on how to tweet about traffic problems. They were not developing a national campaign to attract drivers to Oklahoma roads.

    I think this was a gross waste of tax payers dollars. Gov. Henry is calling for 5% budget cuts across the board and this is going on. Not only did they spend $7,500 for a free account. But, what about the man hours of state employees that were eaten up in the 10 days of training. Are things are so slow around ODOT that they can afford to spend 2 weeks on Twitter training. If the training really did take 10 days ODOT should have found a provider that could accomplish the training in 1 afternoon. It is twitter after all. I wonder if a whole day was spent on how to abbreviate so each tweet is less than 140 characters?

    Saxum seems to think they are above reproach on this. They are as quiet as they can be about it, which seems contrary to Renzi’s tweet earlier today about re-building corporate trust. When I made a comment about that, he decided to block me and prevent anyone from seeing his tweets without his approval. I guess Saxum really doesn’t care about trust, who needs it when the state is funneling you $7k for twit projects.

    Also, since this is a government agency, isn’t this work suppose to be bid out? I would find it hard to believe that Saxum came in with low bid of $7,500. I think this should call for an investigation into all work that Saxum has done for the State of Oklahoma. Maybe they aren’t the true spreaders of good will they would have us believe they are. Maybe they are nothing but another Oklahoma racket that feeds into corruption & wealth.

  4. Patrick Allmond01-13-10

    Just to make sure some more facts get about about this:

    – The contract was 15000 for the work, not 7500. After the crap hit the fan they decided to not spend the rest of the money

    – The contract was actually just to create a twitter account and send information out over the 10 day period leading up to the Red River game. That was explicitly stated in the contract

    – OKDOT did not go out looking to do this. They were approached by Saxum and told it would be a good idea. So there was no bidding. That is not surprising. A lot of state and federal is done with no bidding.

  5. Steve Hunt03-08-11

    Something everyone missed on this, is a few months before this went down, a little girl posted on his blog site asking him about Twitter. Stone had NOT EVEN STARTED USING IT and replied, in a corporate cliche’ spewer fashion “What is the value?”
    In short, he’d only been playing around with Twitter a few weeks before he was awarded his PR World PHD in the subject and allowed to rake in large fees… uggh..sickening.

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