San Benito County supervisors Tuesday approved a $30,000 contract with an outside consultant to handle the sheriff’s office’s social media communications.
Supervisors approved the item 4-1 at Tuesday’s meeting. Supervisor Jaime De La Cruz had the lone dissenting vote.
The vote came after sheriff’s Capt. Eric Taylor explained how the consultant Cole Pro Media would help oversee socia media communications but would also train sheriff’s staff to eventually be self-sufficient in the area.
Taylor said the consultant would give the county a “much greater chance of success” instead of using untrained staff. He underscored how the consultant helps an array of other counties with social media such as Santa Cruz, Monterey and a long list of others.
Taylor also made a point that the firm helps with privacy matters while balancing the public’s desire for information.
He said Cole Pro Media would help with content management, content creation and — “most important” — staff training and crisis communication. ”
The goal is to help our office become experts themselves,” Taylor said.
Most supervisors were on board with the idea.
De La Cruz, however, expressed concern that the $30,000 contract would create enough success where the sheriff’s office would want to expand and create new full-time positions. He said he would rather use money to put more officers on the streets.
“I’d rather see boots on the field than hire non-boots individuals,” he said. “We want to make sure our community is protected. The way you do that is there are more officers on the streets.”
De La Cruz suggested the county join the City of Hollister in social media efforts, but Taylor replied that the sheriff’s office wants to craft its own message.
Taylor also mentioned that local media do not always publish information when released by the sheriff’s office. Supervisor Robert Rivas made a point about the reliability of the local newspaper in supporting the matter.
“We don’t have a reliable print media anymore,” Rivas said.
Rivas also cited studies showing more and more people going to social media for their news and said the county can look to San Benito High School, where the supervisor works full time, for the value of social media. The high school has a staff member who is both a teacher and professional communicator often using social media to reach the public.
“I can’t even navigate all the social media platforms,” Rivas said.
The contract with Cole Pro Media is for 12 months. It actually started July 1 and ends June 30, 2019. Services were used in July and August on a month-to-month basis in order to determine whether the services would be beneficial to the agency. Cost will be divided between the sheriff’s operations, jail and grants budget units, according to the agenda report.