Just months after the University of California-Davis was caught paying $175,000 to a consultant to scrub the Internet of its infamous 2011 pepper-spray incident, the entire UC system is explaining why it shelled out for another crisis-communications effort.
It spent $158,000 on a “publicity campaign” by a PR firm that included digital ads on websites and social media and public-radio sponsorships, in response to a critical state audit that said “its admissions policies had disadvantaged resident students,” The Sacramento Bee reports.
The PR firm chosen by UC? None other than SKDKnickerbocker, hired by Planned Parenthood almost a year ago to pressure journalists not to report on undercover videos that feature its officials haggling over fetal-parts prices.
The spokeswoman for the UC Office of the President said the university system “routinely” shells out to put itself in a good light, and this campaign was funded out of an endowment account intended to “enhance the university’s fundraising efforts”:
“Negative tends to stick in the public’s mind much more than positive news,” she said. “Rather than let a blemish take over the whole state, so to speak, we felt it was necessary and good to get out a positive message.”
The audit claimed that recent UC policy changes on enrollment had incentivized each campus financially to “favor nonresident applicants, who pay a supplemental fee on top of their tuition,” the Bee said: Out-of-state and international undergrads shot up 82 percent in recent years and state residents dropped 1 percent.
Assisted by SKDKnickerbocker, the UC released its own rebuttal report in addition to the media buy.
The UC spokeswoman later backtracked and said the media buy was already planned before the audit was released, but the Bee said it found documents that refer to the online ad effort as “UC Audit Campaign” and communications with the PR firm that refer to “audit messaging.”