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An American Snapshot

Posted At: April 29, 2009 1:20 PM
by Julie Brown

Every 10 years, an amazing event happens in the United States. A snapshot is taken of our nation. Every person over the age of 18 is required by law to fill out the census survey, with every gender, race, socioeconomic class, relationship status and political group recorded.

The U.S. Census Bureau has embarked on a $312 million integrated communications campaign for the upcoming 2010 Census. In the2010 Census Integrated Communications Campaign Plan, each tactic and strategy is divided by the various target segments and the methods of communicating for that particular target. The plan’s objectives are to increase mail response; improve overall accuracy and reduce the differential undercount; and improve cooperation with enumerators. The campaign featured early implements in late 2008 and will continue through June 2010 with major emphasis starting January 2010. The channels of communication selected for the campaign are partnerships with community organizations, advertising, census in schools, public relations, Web sites and promotional materials.

Several communications agencies competed to receive the 2010 Census Integrated Communications Contract (ICC). DraftFCB, New York, was awarded the contract in September 2007. “DraftFCB is a full-service marketing and communications agency and is the primary contractor for the ICC,” said Stacy Gimbel, public affairs specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau. “The DraftFCB 2010 Census Team includes race and ethnic specialists, public relations, event marketing, recruitment advertising and creative design experts.”

Public relations component
As noted in the communication plan, “the public relations objective for this campaign is to surround every household in the country with credible, memorable messages through trusted conversations that motivate people to complete the decennial census.” Through public relations, the campaign hopes to target each audience cluster with information from their own trusted media outlets, such as Univision and the Spanish speaking community. The completed media buy schedule will be finalized by August 2009 and the entire schedule will be completed by the year’s end, Gimbel said.

“It’s in Our Hands” is the selected theme for the campaign and census officials hope that it resonates throughout all media outlets with the help of public relations practitioners and the Public Information Office. According to a PRWeek article, the theme was also created in the hopes that participation will be encouraged especially when information comes from trusted outlets and individuals.

The key public relations tactics that campaign developers intend to implement are key message development, story mining, online news briefings, editorial board meetings, deskside briefings, strategic travel and campaign press kits. The key messages provided by public relations practitioners will be tailored for each race and ethnic audience so that the material will be reliable and trustworthy to the particular segmented target group. Online news outlets and newspaper giants are targeted in hopes to gain partnerships to increase awareness of the upcoming census and disperse information when needed. In a Government Accountability Office (GAO)report, public relations components will also include utilizing the Internet, social networks, blogs, satellite radio, podcasts and Web-enabled phones.

The timeline of public relations activities began in 2008 with the definition of key messages and will continue until 2010 to ensure the continuation of media coverage and make sure accurate information is being dispersed to the public.

The 2010 communications campaign is much larger than previous years because of the push to attain greater response rates. “In Census 2000, the contract was only for paid advertising,” Gimbel said. “For Census 2010, the contract is an Integrated Communications Campaign that includes paid advertising, Census in Schools, partnership efforts, public relations and research.”

Benefit for PR practitioners
Secondary research for public relations campaigns is one of the main benefits that the census findings have for public relations practitioners. Data on income, employment and household information can be invaluable to a public relations practitioner when researching a particular area of the country. The census provides a glimpse inside the target’s life and what tactics may be better suited for their lifestyle.

The 2010 Census is not only a civil duty, but the survey provides valuable information for research and data collection practices. So when you participate in the census taking in March 2010, you will not just be filling in the questionnaire answers … you will be helping take a photograph of our country.

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