PLANNING A GENERAL OBLIGATION BOND?
CONSIDER BRINGING ON A PUBLIC AFFAIRS CONSULTANT SOONER RATHER THAN LATER.
Preparing to put a bond on the ballot for voter approval is a significant undertaking for any school district. It requires careful planning, communication, and outreach to ensure that the bond measure is well-received by the community and ultimately approved by voters.
One valuable resource for school districts in this process is a public affairs and communications consultant. In this post, we will explore how a school district can best use a public affairs and communications consultant as it prepares to put a bond on the ballot, including the use of direct mail, digital advertising, and polling research.
Note for California school districts: The content below presents a broadly applicable recommendation. In California and several other states, taxpayer dollars cannot be used to advocate passage of a bond measure. In these circumstances, it is common for a district to contract with a public affairs and communication consulting firm to provide objective public information about the upcoming bond via a contract that ends shortly after the district puts the measure on the ballot. The firm would then be available – without taking any taxpayer dollars – to assist in organizing a pro-bond campaign committee and directing critical voter communications to facilitate passage of the measure.
WHAT CAN A PUBLIC AFFAIRS CONSULTANT DO?
Public affairs consultants are experts in public policy, government relations, and strategic communication. They provide advice and guidance to organizations and individuals on how to navigate complex political and policy issues. In the context of a school district putting a bond on the ballot, a public affairs consultant would provide guidance on how to communicate the benefits of the bond measure to the community in an objective manner and – after concluding its engagement with the district – build support and engage voters.
To achieve these goals, your consultant has several tools at their disposal:
- Direct Mail. A form of advertising that involves sending promotional materials directly to prospective voters’ homes, direct mail can reach a large number of people and can be highly targeted based on factors such as age, income, and voting history. Your public affairs consultant can work with you to create a direct mail campaign that educates voters on how a bond measure works, what it will cost, and what projects it will fund. For example, your consultant could create a series of mailers that explain how the bond would fund new classrooms, upgrade technology, and improve school safety. The mailers could also include testimonials from parents, teachers, and community leaders who support the bond measure.
- Digital Advertising. It is a cost-effective way to target specific groups of voters, such as young people or parents with school-aged children by placing ads on websites, social media, and other online platforms. Your consultant can also use targeting tools to ensure that the ads are seen by the right people at the right time. For example, your consultant could create a social media campaign that targets parents of high school students in the school district and highlights how the bond measure would fund new science labs and technology upgrades.
- Polling Research. By surveying a sample of voters to gauge their opinions on a particular issue or candidate, polling research can help the district understand how voters feel about the bond measure and what messages are most likely to resonate with them. Your public affairs consultant can conduct the research, analyze the results, and then use this information to develop a communications strategy tailored to your specific needs. For example, if the research shows that voters are most concerned about school safety, your consultant could create a messaging campaign that emphasizes how the bond measure would fund security upgrades and other safety measures.
In summary, a public affairs and communications consultant can be an invaluable resource for a school district as it prepares to communicate the benefits of the bond measure to the community. By using tools such as direct mail, digital advertising, and polling research, the consultant can help a school district increase the chances of a successful bond measure campaign and ultimately secure the funding it needs.
WHAT EXPERTISE DOES A PUBLIC AFFAIRS CONSULTANT BRING TO THE TABLE?
One of the primary benefits of using a public affairs and communications consultant is their expertise in strategic communication. Consultants have experience in crafting messaging that resonates with specific audiences, and they know how to develop communication strategies that will be effective in reaching and engaging voters. This skill is particularly important when it comes to putting a bond on the ballot, as the success of the measure depends on voter support and engagement.
A public affairs consultant also provides guidance on building a coalition of supporters for the bond measure by identifying key stakeholders in the community, such as business leaders, parent-teacher organizations, and elected officials. By engaging them in the campaign,, the school district increases the likelihood of the bond measure’s success.
Another benefit of using a consultant is their ability to conduct research and analyze data. While the polling research mentioned above is one example of the types of research consultants provide, they can also analyze demographic data and voting history to identify key voter groups that are likely to be supportive of the bond measure. This information can then be used to develop targeted communication strategies tailored to specific audiences.
Beyond research and analysis, a public affairs consultant can also provide guidance on navigating complex political issues. For example, if there is opposition to the bond measure, your consultant can advise on how to address concerns and counter arguments. They can also provide guidance on how to work with local media outlets to ensure that the district’s message is being effectively communicated to the community.
Finally, using a public affairs and communications consultant can save a school district time and resources. For, while the consultant manages the entire campaign, – including developing messaging, creating promotional materials, and coordinating outreach efforts – district staff can focus on other priorities, such as managing day-to-day operations and ensuring that students are receiving a high-quality education.
READY TO PUT TOGETHER A PLAN?
Whether you’re just beginning your RFP process or already have a consultant on contract, make sure you’re covering the bases outlined below.
STEP 1: DEFINE THE SCOPE OF WORK
The first step in working with a public affairs and communications firm is to define the scope of work. This should include the objectives of the bond campaign, the target audience, and the messaging strategy. The school district will then work closely with the consultant to develop a comprehensive plan that outlines the tactics that will be used to communicate with the community.
STEP 2: DEVELOP A COMPREHENSIVE COMMUNICATION PLAN
The plan should include a mix of communication outlets that will be used to reach the target audience. This can include social media, direct mail, email campaigns, public events, and media outreach. The communication plan should be designed to reach all segments of the community, including parents, teachers, staff, and other stakeholders.
STEP 3: DEVELOP COMPELLING MESSAGING
Messaging is critical in any communication campaign, and a bond campaign is no exception. The messaging should be designed to not only resonate with the community, but also highlight the benefits of the bond. It should be clear, concise, and compelling, and it should address any potential concerns or objections that the community may have about the bond.
STEP 4: LEVERAGE THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media is a powerful tool for reaching a broad audience quickly and cost-effectively. A public affairs and communications consultant can help the school district develop a social media strategy that is engaging and shareable. Social media is an excellent tool for reaching younger voters and parents who are active on social media.
STEP 5: DEVELOP A PUBLIC RELATIONS STRATEGY
A public relations strategy helps the district reach a broader audience and gain valuable media coverage. As part of the strategy, the consultant can develop a media relations plan that includes press releases, media outreach, and media events. They can also prepare the district for media interviews and develop talking points that highlight the benefits of the bond. .
STEP 6: DEVELOP A GRASSROOTS CAMPAIGN
A grassroots campaign includes community outreach, public events, and door-to-door canvassing. It can be extremely effective in mobilizing voters and generating support for the bond. With this type of campaign, the consultant can develop a program that recruits, trains, and deploys individuals to. spread the word.
STEP 7: DEVELOP A CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS PLAN
A crisis communications plan should be developed in advance and should outline how the district will respond to any potential crisis that may arise during the bond campaign. The consultant can work with the district to develop a crisis communications plan that includes messaging, media outreach, and social media.
STEP 8: MONITOR AND MEASURE RESULTS
Continuous monitoring and measuring of campaign results is critical to its success. By analyzing metrics like website traffic, social media engagement, and media coverage, a public affairs and communications consultant can track the success of the bond campaign and adjust the communications strategy toward messaging that resonates with more voters.
In summary, a school district can benefit greatly from working with a public affairs consultant to effectively communicate the benefits of a school bond to the community. A skilled consultant can help craft and execute a strategic communication plan that includes targeted messaging, community engagement, and voter education about the impact of the bond. Additionally, by working with a consultant, a district can ensure that its message touches key stakeholders and likely voters, ultimately increasing the chances of the bond passing.
When putting together an RFP for this work, it’s important to consider the consultant’s experience, track record, and approach to communication. By doing so, a district can find the right partner to help them achieve their goals. Don’t leave the success of your school bond to chance – work with a public affairs consultant and set your district up for success.
At Presidio, we specialize in creating customized, data-driven communication programs that help our clients achieve these goals and more. With our team of experienced professionals, we can help you reach your target audience and achieve the results you’re looking for.