After photos of student protesters being pepper-sprayed by campus police in 2011 went viral and prompted a wave of bad publicity, the University of California, Davis turned to a Maryland firm for help.
The school paid the Baltimore PR firm Nevins & Associates more than $90,000 for a six-month contract in 2013 to help scrub the image of the university and its chancellor, Linda P.B. Katehi, The Sacramento Bee reports, citing documents recently disclosed by the university.
The firm pledged to help bury the story by using Google platforms to remove references to the pepper-spray incident from online search results and to have founder and President David Nevins, a former chair of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents tap his higher education expertise to consult on the project, according to a copy of the agreement obtained by the Bee.
“The negative viral content and videos will be diluted by a surge of content with positive sentiment and off-topic subject matter through strategic use search tags, titles and descriptions,” the company wrote.
The university also awarded an $82,500 contract to the Sacramento-based IDMLOCO to “design and execute a comprehensive search engine results management strategy,” the Bee reported.