Savvy PR provides funding for school superintendents

Last spring, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn proposed a budget that eliminated funding for 44 offices of regional superintendents of schools (impacting 90 superintendents).

Client: Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools (Springfield, IL)
Agency: Mac Strategies Group (Chicago)
Campaign: Restoring Pay to Illinois Regional Superintendents
Duration: March 15 - December 1, 2011
Budget: $15,000

Last spring, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (D) proposed a budget that eliminated funding for 44 offices of regional superintendents of schools (impacting nearly 90 superintendents). The legislature disagreed and included money in the budget, which Quinn subsequently vetoed.

“We needed PR to gain public support,” explains Bob Daiber, president of the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools (IARSS). “We needed to shape our message so our duties and functions were better understood.”

IARSS hired Mac Strategies Group to construct and execute the campaign.

Messaging was primarily driven through media relations, grassroots outreach, and

“[IARSS] hadn't done a good job in the past of explaining what they did,” says Ryan Keith, VP of public affairs at Mac Strategies Group. “Our goal was to show how regional offices touch people's lives and make our schools and our workforce better. Our media exposure turned them from unknown bureaucrats to real people working hard for schools.”

A statehouse news conference and editorial board meetings kicked off the campaign in mid-March.

Op-eds and letters to the editor were placed in newspapers statewide.

Media outreach was ongoing, and Daiber served as primary spokesperson. Jeff Vose, a Springfield area superintendent, also conducted interviews.

The agency made connections between policymakers and superintendents and created support materials including talking points, myths and facts about the regional superintendents, and documents covering all the services and duties they provide.

Resolutions in support of restoring funding were created for school boards in the fall. Similar documents were drafted for school administrators to send to legislators.

Testimonials from teachers, parents, and various organizations were collected and posted on and sent to legislators and media.

A Facebook page was established in late September. Media hits were posted and connections with legislators were made.

Legislators voted to provide a new funding source for regional superintendents on November 10.

Keith reports “hundreds” of stories in all Illinois markets. National coverage included AP and NPR.

“I don't believe this could have happened [without] the PR support from Mac Strategies,” Daiber says. “The story was told so well that media continue to want information and to communicate with us on how the issue is unwinding.”

IARSS extended its contract with the agency through 2012. “We're working on a response to the outcome and beginning to prepare a response to the findings that will be reported by the commission for streamlining the regional offices of education,” Daiber adds.

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