Paying for Celebrity Tweets???

by Gord Hume

Here's a fun topic for you to gnaw over at lunch with your colleagues today: SHOULD LOCAL GOVERNMENTS PAY INFLUENCERS' TO PROMOTE THEIR CITY?

The back-story is this: St. Petersburg, Florida Mayor Rick Kriseman, in the words of a recent Tampa Bay Times editorial, "...tried to sneak an overly ambitious marketing contract past the public... Included in the price tag was $80,000 to pay influencers to spread positive messages about the city on social media..."

Florida has a history of such payments. The state tourism development agency, "VISIT FLORIDA", paid Pitbull one million dollars to promote tourism in Florida, apparently mostly through social media, concerts and music videos.

I confess to my social media inadequacies and lack of knowledge of Mr. Bull. I gather he is a popular pop music star.

The shake-out of that contract was the resignation of the President of VISIT FLORIDA, a vicious battle between the Governor and the House Speaker, a lot of really nasty comments from the public, and many left scratching their heads.

Certainly promoting a city or a province (state) is a totally legitimate part of any government's agenda. Tourism is a big economic factor for many cities and regions. Attracting new businesses is an important role for civic government. Developing supportive marketing campaigns or linking with provincial/federal ad spending could be useful. 

And certainly social media is emerging as an important part of any communication strategy for businesses or governments, not to mention the entire entertainment industry.

So how much is it worth to get celebrity endorsements? Should Canadian municipalities be paying for the kind of global exposure that a star might generate?

Would Celine Dion have an impact on Quebec tourism if she started pushing La Belle Province on her social media accounts? 

Rachel McAdams, Ryan Gosling and Justin Bieber were all born in London, Ontario (although they grew up in other communities)... is that a marketing opportunity?

What if the Toronto Raptors won the NBA crown this spring? What kind of US media exposure would that create and how would/could/should the city exploit it?

It really is a quite fascinating discussion when you think about the ramifications and possibilities. Then you factor in the spending of public dollars, and the conversation goes sideways rather quickly. Are politicians prepared to be accountable for spending big dollars to have a Kardashian tweet about their city? And the inevitable fall-out to follow?

Enjoy your sandwich. Have the discussion. I will be fascinated to hear your comments...


Gord Hume


Gord Hume is recognized as one of Canada's leading voices on municipal government and is an articulate and thoughtful commentator on civic government and community issues. He is a very popular public speaker, an advisor to municipal governments, and a respected and provocative author.

Gord was elected to London City Council four times. He has had a distinguished career in Canadian business, managing radio stations and as Publisher of a newspaper. Gord received two “Broadcaster of the Year' awards. He is now President of Hume Communications Inc., a professional independent advisor to municipalities.

Most consulted news