Stronger Than the Storm, Gov. Christie’s official campaign of post-Sandy boosterism, encourages people to “join in and share the love with #STTS” — and many do. A Jersey Shore ice cream vendor boasts that he has the best job in the world. LaurenS declared Aug. 11 “the most glorious beach day” ever. But when the #STTS hashtag accompanies a story about a couple accused of animal abuse, or fire consuming a playground, it may have you scratching your head.
Yet this is exactly the kind of story being tweeted out with the #STTS hashtag by Ocean Signal, a 50,000 circulation bi-weekly newspaper — and breaking news site — serving northern Ocean County. It turns out that Ocean Signal generates the hashtag automatically every time the site tweets out a story, and it’s meant as a commentary on the state’s public relations effort.
Co-editor Phil Stilton explains:
It is our official protest to the entire campaign. This administration has taken $25 million for ad campaign to help the shore and it has not helped one bit. They refused to talk to us or any other local businesses or local government agencies on what WE really needed at the shore. Even Brushfire, who handles the bulk of the New Jersey tourism advertising budget, agreed that portions of the campaign should have gone to attract the 600,000 residents, who are the most likely purchasers and repeat visitors to shore businesses.
The Christie administration, who you can research that I have been an avid supporter of since 2009, has completely dropped the ball on helping shore businesses. Their events are mockeries of the situation and do little to help.
So yes, we have hijacked #STTS and until the Christie administration and MWW are ready to talk to us and find out how they can REALLY help local businesses bounce back, as opposed to blowing $25 million on a useless campaign, we will continue to do that.
Since the #STTS campaign was announced, we made several dozen calls to MWW, the Christie administration, spoke to Lt. Governor Guadagno, who agreed with us, but nothing has materialized.
STTS is a failure to the businesses and the people in our area.
Ocean Signal is not the only news operation to complain that #STTS misses the mark. Chris Satullo, vice president of news and civic dialogue for WHYY, which has conducted a series of public forums about Sandy rebuilding, wrote an eloquent piece earlier this month about public backlash against the campaign. From that column:
To many, the ads convey this message: “Chris Christie’s ego. Bigger than the storm.” Some dislike how the governor sets himself up as the emblem for the generosity and pluck shown by ordinary people in Sandy’s wake.
Plenty of people are still furious about what they see as the slow, inconsistent performance of governments—federal, state and local—post-Sandy. They are in no mood to see a politician take a glossy, premature victory lap.
Using public records requests, the Asbury Park Press reported on Aug. 5 that MWW Group, the PR firm behind $4.7 million Stronger Than The Storm campaign, bid $2 million higher than its competitor, but wanted to put Christie in the ads.