WASHINGTON: Mindshare Interactive Campaigns, Glover Park Group (GPG), DC Navigators, and DCI Group are assisting outreach on the recently launched, $60 million Strong American Schools (SAS) campaign, which seeks to make education a prominent subject of debate in the 2008 presidential election.A nonpartisan campaign that takes no position on policies or candidates, SAS is a project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors that is being funded by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and will run through November 2008.
Advertising will account for a significant portion of the campaign’s budget, though executive director Marc Lampkin said the other creative work, including development of the www.edin08.com Web site by Mindshare, is likely to prove the most effective means of gathering support for the campaign, which seeks to provoke as much debate as possible among presidential and other political candidates on solutions to improve US education.
“That’s one of the lessons learned from [political] campaigns,” Lampkin said. “We’ll spend a fair amount on advertising, but literally event by event is the way you want to reel in people. There’s so much noise and clutter, even with this amount of resources, that trying to screen over the din is not likely to penetrate.”
GPG and DC Navigators are providing paid and earned media outreach and strategy, executive director Marc Lampkin said, while DCI is providing some grassroots and other communications assistance. Online outreach will center on the Web site, which currently features a blog by SAS chairman and lead spokesperson Roy Romer, a former governor of Colorado, and will over the coming weeks and months add various new interactive features designed to permit supporters to discuss issues and organize events supporting the organization’s goals.
“The approach that was taken here is not to try to take a particular message out and tell the story of education, but to really engage people in a conversation, and build a movement like a political campaign,” said Mindshare EVP Huard G. Smith. “The idea was to get people excited about it, to take it to their representatives and the various campaigns going on, and to raise the issue to the highest levels, so it’s spoken of in the same breath as healthcare and the war and other things.”
Mindshare VP Colin Moffett added that building and organizing the campaign online is how all significant political movements are organized today. In the case of SAS, the Web site serves as a central place for discussion and for acquiring resources such a “toolkit” available for participants to organize local events supporting the campaign. Creation of the brand “Ed in 08,” moreover, gives the campaign more of a personality of sorts that supports can rally around yet is nonpartisan.
“You have this pseudo candidate that allows us to act like a campaign … and allows people to endorse a candidate,” Moffett said, as in the case of a recent Denver Post editorial in response to the campaign launch that called on readers to “back” Ed in 08.
Lampkin said the overall goal of the campaign is to be ubiquitous, to go where the candidates go, and to build a long-term group of activists that can help support the discussion of educational solutions even after the end of the presidential election. Using the Web site as a hub for organizing helps establish that ubiquity, said Lampkin, who contrasting online political organization today with political campaigns of 30 years ago, when supporters of a political campaign usually needed to be physically at an official office to help organize.