As Natalie Ghidotti begins a mission to attract women and minority applicants for more than 50 vacancies on the Little Rock police force, she won’t be using an image of a man covered in SWAT gear as her poster boy.
“It’s not that I wouldn’t consider that image if our target audience was different, but that isn’t going to be a message that helps Little Rock fill dozens of police positions with women and minorities,” Ghidotti said Monday, a day after her Little Rock marketing firm, Ghidotti Communications, was chosen over a dozen competitors to lead the $150,000 multimedia campaign designed to reshape the way the city attracts officers. “Women are more apt to respond to something that has a warmer feel.”
Ghidotti is partnering with Cranford Co. of Little Rock on the project, with Cranford focusing on the creative vision. Account Supervisor Kathryn Heller and Content Marketing Director Sandra McGrew will spearhead Ghidotti’s internal team.
Ghidotti’s oral presentation before a five-person selection committee sealed the assignment, according to city spokesman Lamor Williams. The choice, over fellow finalists Stone Ward and The Communications Group, both of Little Rock, was first reported in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. City Manager Bruce Moore has given his approval, but the contract awaits ratification by the city’s Board of Directors.
“The selection committee felt like [Ghidotti’s] vision in their creative work was speaking more directly to the audience we would like to see applying,” Williams told Arkansas Business on Monday.
Williams wrote the bid document for the campaign, known as a request for qualifications, or RFQ, with input from the police department, which was issued in August. Earlier this year, the Police Department commissioned a comprehensive report from consultants, including some from the International Association of Chiefs of Police, that recommended the city remake its officer-recruitment efforts. The force has faced hiring competition in an improving economy from private-sector companies and from other cities seeking officers, like Memphis.
A negative perception of police work among minorities, fueled by prominent cases of officers shooting black men, has exacerbated the public relations challenge recruiters face. To counter that, the LRPD boosted pay in 2016 and instituted a $5,000 signing bonus for new officers. The police department has 590 total sworn positions. At last count, 77 were vacant, but 26 recruits were going through academy training.
“Little Rock has competitive pay, and the $5,000 bonus is there, but the department wants to recruit police officers who reflect the community, who mirror the city,” Ghidotti said. “We hope to people who love Little Rock but may not have ever considered careers in law enforcement. We want to get the attention of folks who want to make a difference.”
Ghidotti said Police Chief Kenton Buckner runs a “great force” that simply needs more people. She said addressing that doesn’t require a big TV ad blitz, but rather a targeted media push in a 250-mile radius of Little Rock. “We’re excited about this opportunity,” Ghidotti said. “We love Little Rock and look forward to helping tell the story of a great department that just needs more people on the team.”
She said the partnership with Cranford Co. “brings a lot of creative expertise to the table; The multimedia will include a lot of video, and Chris Cranford is the master of that.”
Ghidotti hopes the city board OKs the contract soon so that her team can get started with the work by Jan.1. She hopes to help the city meet its hiring goals by the end of 2018. “It’s a challenge, and a lot of people will be watching. But we’re eager.”