Minneapolis officials are very sorry that they thought paying social media influencers to spread the city’s messaging during the trial of the ex-cop who killed George Floyd was ever a good idea.
On Friday, the city council voted to move forward with a campaign to hire social media influencers—for a flat rate of $2,000 each—to spread its messaging during Chauvin’s trial, as part of a $1.2 million communications strategy focused on controlling protests and preventing property damage. They would have specifically targeted Black, Native American, Somali, Hmong, and Latinx communities as part of that plan.
In a city council meeting today, David Rubedor, the director of the Neighborhood and Community Relations Department, said that after feedback from the community, the city will no longer move forward with that part of their strategy.
“For this strategy we use the term ‘social media influencer,’ which in retrospect did not accurately reflect what we are asking of our partners, and it caused confusion in the community,” he said. “This was never about trying to persuade or change public opinion about any particular message, but more about getting important information out quickly and in an equitable way.”
In preparation for the trial, which begins jury selection on March 8, city officials are spending a lot of time and money to make sure they’re ready for any protests that might happen when the verdict is handed down—including beefed-up communications strategies, fire and traffic control, and bringing in the National Guard. When Chauvin killed Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020, protests erupted across the country.
The city will hold weekly meetings with neighborhood organizations, and weekly emails with information about the trial and community resources while it is ongoing. Rubedor said that the social media influencer plan was a response to hearing that residents aren’t connected to the city’s information systems or informed of resources, and that language barriers might keep some from accessing important updates—but that the idea of paying off influencers to share that information was misguided.
“While I believe in and support the intention of this recommendation, we have seen that the impact has caused harm in our communities, and for that I am sorry,” Rubedor said. “We will acknowledge that we have caused harm, and we will work to restore that repair the harm that was caused by this strategy.”
City coordinator Mark Ruff, who presented the paid influencer recommendation on Friday, added that this change is part of the feedback system at work.
“I think we welcome, as staff, suggestions from not only our elected officials but from the community directly, to be able to reach communities who don’t use traditional media, who have a language barrier,” he said during the meeting. “[We are] quick to say that when we make a mistake, we acknowledge that, and we will do better, and that is the work of the city—[using] that feedback mechanism to improve. Because we have improved over the last year, but we know we still have a long way to go.”
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