WASHINGTON: The US Census Bureau will hold a pre-solicitation conference in Suitland, MD in January to provide prospective bidders with more information on its approximately $200-million Census 2010 communications contract.
The conference, which coincides with the issue of the final RFP, will include a small business expo to give small businesses a chance to network with larger government contractors, according to Census Bureau public affairs specialist Shelly Lowe, who said the winner of the RFP may well be a group of companies that specialize in reaching different types of people.
The start date for the annual contract, with options to renew, is in August 2007.
The decennial census, conducted by the US government since 1790, counts every person in the country, and given the scope of the task, the related communications must be equally extensive, to convey the importance of participation to urban and rural residents and every single racial, age, or other type of demographic, noted Stephen Buckner, the bureau's director of PR and events.
The goal is to get people to fill out the census forms they receive in the mail. Otherwise, the Census Bureau estimates it will have to spend about $75 million knocking on doors, calling, or otherwise personally contacting every 1% of the population that doesn't respond.
To reverse a decline in voluntary participation over the past several decades, the government in 2000 for the first time used marketing firms: WPP agencies Young & Rubicam and Cohn & Wolfe, and a number of firms that specialize in minority outreach to run an approximately $167-million advertising and PR campaign on the importance of participation.
"The communications campaign we put in place then focused mostly on advertising, but we did have a large grassroots campaign as well," Buckner said. "We're certainly looking to replicate [what we did in 2000], but we know that the media landscape has changed since 2000," including the rise in various forms of Internet-based communications.