The Challenge

A lot of cities are in financial trouble these days, but the case of Scranton, Pennsylvania, stands out for its unusual degree of bickering as it descends into the fiscal abyss.
— -Josh Barro, Bloomberg View

Municipalities and public entities across the United States are facing a difficult financial landscape. With financial challenges come communication challenges.

In 2013 the City of Scranton was labeled by some as the next Detroit. The city’s difficulties and unsettled political climate garnered national attention, damaging its reputation in the credit markets. In 2014,  a new administration took office and engaged renowned financial consultants, HJA Strategies, to devise a plan to help pull Scranton back from the edge.

As a part of the new recovery effort it was clear that the city also faced serious communication challenges, including repairing the city’s reputation in the credit markets and addressing misconceptions about bankruptcy and the financial status of the city to stakeholders as well as clearly communicating the value of key recovery initiatives. HJA Strategies and the City engaged Publitics, as a part of a grant from local businesses and foundations, to develop and execute a strategy to turn the narrative around as it made financial progress.

 

The Approach

 We developed a multi-pronged strategy to help engage key stakeholders in the “Scranton Forward” mes- sage. We began by working with HJA Strategies to dispel misinformation about bankruptcy and helped develop outreach materials messaging that broke down the complex nature of the challenges at hand. Additionally, we developed a targeted media outreach program to deliver a message that was focused on reparing Scranton’s reputation in the credit markets.

The Results

Over the past year, Scranton has been able to tell a story of stability and progress, generating positive coverage in national, financial, state and local media. Scranton is nearing the completion of several key recovery initiatives, including the responsible monetization of their parking and sewer utilities, and is potentially on track for an exit from “distressed” status.

“Scranton Eyes Distressed-City Exit after Wastewater Sale” - Bond Buyer

“The deal would mark another step forward in the city's efforts to stabilize its budget.”  - Scranton, Pennsylvania to sell sewer utility for $195 million - Reuters

 “Scranton 2016 budget called 'bridge to financial stability" - Times Tribune

"Distressed No More? State to Lay Out Exit Plan for Scranton" - WNEP