The Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado has hired Blakely + Company as its full-service public relations firm. The move also means that Katie Carrol, who has been the BBB director of public relations and broadcasting since 2005, has been laid off.
“We’ve been hired as a full-service public relations firm, effective immediately,” said Lisa Amend, public relations director at Blakely. “We’ll be providing traditional PR services – media relations, media training for staff, social media and advertising.”
Blakely will be working for the BBB’s new executive director and CEO, Matt Barrett.
Barrett was hired in April to replace Carol Odell, the Bureau’s CEO of 14 years until she retired earlier this year. Most recently, he was the chief operating officer at Graham Advertising in Colorado Springs. Before joining Graham, Barrett was executive director of the Springs’ Small Business Development Center for five years.
“I was hired as the new CEO to come in and take a fresh look at things,” Barrett said. “And the radio and television program were two things I looked at. They just didn’t have the viewership that justified the cost. It was half of the position for public relations.”
Barrett confirmed that the decision meant laying off Carrol, who has been a well-known presence in the community.
“It didn’t make sense to justify the full job for only part-time responsibilities,” he said. “It was a tough decision, but I decided to go with an outside firm.”
Carrol said she was surprised by the decision.
“But it was very cordial,” she said. “It was a great job, and I loved working there. But it’s time for a new chapter – I just don’t know what the title of that chapter will be. You expect restructuring when a new CEO comes on board, and this is just part of that change.”
Barrett said he chose Blakely + Company because of the firm’s business savvy, reputation and knowledge of the community.
“And,” he said, “they’re the greatest people on planet Earth.”
Camille Blakely, co-owner of the advertising, public relations and marketing firm, is on the board of directors for the BBB, but Barrettt said the BBB has a long precedent of using board members to fulfill service contracts.
“I did check it out with the executive committee,” he said. “And they agreed there was no conflict of interest.”
Carrol’s Linked-in profile says she was responsible for elevating the BBB’s media profile, getting the most coverage in the entire BBB system. Before moving to Colorado Springs, Carrol was a faculty member at Columbia Basin College in Washington state and a television news anchor at KEPR/Fisher Communications in Pascoe, Wash. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Virginia Tech.
Barrett said he hoped to add a stronger online presence, better business advocacy and more partnerships with other business organizations in the region.
“I’ve said that the national organization is about five years behind on technology,” he said. “And in Colorado Springs, we have a problem with silos. I’ve spoken with Joe Raso (CEO of the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance) about breaking down some of those silos. For instance, it doesn’t make sense for three organizations to have a workshop on social media in the same week. Why not collaborate, have one workshop, with more people?”
Barrett said he also is working with Aikta Marcoulier at the Small Business Development Center to encourage more collaboration among business groups in the city.