Census Bureau continues campaign momentum

For the release of the first set of data from the 2010 Census the US Census Bureau had to continue the momentum it built during its census response campaign.

WASHINGTON: For the release of the first set of data from the 2010 Census the US Census Bureau had to continue the momentum it built during its census response campaign.

The bureau worked with Weber Shandwick on PR for the integrated campaign, which achieved a 74% response rate and was up two percentage points from 2000. Going into a campaign of this size and with some of the challenges it faced, Brooke Worden, VP at Weber, who lead on the account, said everything had to be grounded in research. Going up against economic conditions, declining civic engagement, and a mistrust in the government, Worden said they tested everything and looked at what worked and what didn't in 2000.

The team on the campaign also had to build a social media platform from the ground up, since a social media strategy didn't exist in 2000.

“This was really the first social census,” Worden said.

The bureau launched a Facebook page at the start of the campaign, which is now fourth in terms of followers among government pages behind the White House, the Marine Corps, and the Army. It also launched a blog for Robert Groves, US Census director.

To switch gears from census outreach to communications about the end product the bureau used the social media tools it set up during the campaign and completely redesigned its 2010 site.

“We wanted the site to be active and added data visualization, news feed functions, and connections to Twitter, Facebook, and our director's blog. We didn't want people to think the census was over,” said Stephen Buckner, director of the Center for New Media and Promotions at the bureau.

For the data release, the bureau launched an interactive map widget for the media to embed on websites. The widget tracks a state's population and seats in the House of Representatives through the past century. It also created an animated video “The US Census and the Amazing Apportionment Machine” to explain how apportionment works. The video was posted on its site and on YouTube.

Buckner said the bureau had well over 100 media outlets attend its press conference on Tuesday and more than 5,000 web viewers. The White House Twitter account directed  followers to @uscensusbureau, and the bureau held a Tweetup at the press conference.

The bureau has a schedule on its site of what data will be released on certain dates. Buckner said it will continue to capitalize on the investment it made in the original campaign to carry the brand forward.

The multicultural impact

For marketers and PR professionals, significant data and insight on the growth of the Hispanic market will continue to be released. In February and March, it will start to release local-level census data on race, Hispanic origin, and the voting age population.

“The data will have a huge impact on our business and any business that deals with Hispanic outreach,” said Jeffrey Sharlach, chairman and CEO of The Jeffrey Group.

A key learning point, added Sharlach, is that consumers respect companies that listen and engage with them on a continuing basis and don't just react to the latest marketing opportunity, such as the census.

Roxana Lissa, president and founder of RL PR, said the data will be a wake-up call.

“The growth is huge among Americans that identify themselves as Latino. We need to figure out what that means,” Lissa added.

She also said that there is a huge opportunity among Latino youth, and brands are still not recognizing that demographic as a key target area.

Loida Rosario, SVP of Edelman's multicultural marketing and communications practice, echoed that the census numbers will be a wake-up call.

“There is opportunity for everybody. Boutique agencies need to sharpen their focus on how their areas of expertise relates to the general population. Larger agencies need to be strategic in how they help clients adapt,” Rosario said.

Having updated data by block also has major implications to do much more tailored marketing and analysis, she added.

Sharlach pointed out that, when the last data was released, it was a tough time for marketing and PR, so the momentum the industry would have seen from the data never fully materialized. This time, he said, the industry will be able to realize a more lasting effect from the data.

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