Friday, June 22, 2007

GRCC Campaign Part Two

While area colleges are dealing with national rankings (see earlier post), Grand Rapids Community College is looking for some local love. (Note to GRCC--have the messages for the campaign on your Web site).

You'll recall that GRCC was unable to prevail a few months ago when voters voted down a millage increase proposal. Now they have a campaign to go back to the voters, thinking that since they lost by a small margin they can prevail in August with a new vote.

I see some good in the new campaign, described in an article in the Grand Rapids Press. In particular I like the media and the message.

As for media, the direct approach involving direct mail, meetings with community members, and even door to door visits is the way to go. Mass media is best for getting people to pay attention, but FTF (face to face) is best for persuasion. It shows once again that PR MUST be more than media relations with ad support. You want people to feel close to you and your cause, ya gotta get close to the peeps.

Meanwhile, with regard to message, John Helmholdt of Strategic Communications Group (used to be called Jones and Gavan) is correct to stress not that GRCC needs the revenue to survive, but to point out to residents what the community college contributes to the entire community. Fundamental theory applies here--appeal to self interest, the public need, not just your organization's need.

That praise aside, a few thoughts come to mind. Why didn't people know the benefits of GRCC before they are being asked to approve to have their taxes increased? PR needs to be proactive. As a tax-funded institution, it's incumbent to show accountability and relevance to all publics--i.e. taxpayers--all the time, not just when you need their support. This principle applies to all organizations.

Secondly, in this FTF campaign, I hope the Helmholdt and his crew, and preferably some folks from GRCC, don't do all the talking. I hope they listen as well. It can be admirable to stay "on message," but if your message doesn't address the public's resistance, your message is meaningless.

Good luck to GRCC. If they succeed, I hope the FTF campaign will provide a lesson that public relations is more than publicity, and is best evident by relationship building employed in this campaign.

1 comment:

John Helmholdt said...

Prof of PR,
Appreciate the kind words. I was not involved in the first campaign but I can tell you we are incorporating every public relations opportunity possible. A very aggressive letter to editor campaign. Earned media from both the college (AARP, 5 Years of Cuts, Reforms, Fundraising, and Tuition Hikes) and the Vote Yes committee (Aggressive campaign, endorsements,etc). Direct mail from both the college and Vote Yes. Speakers bureaus throughout the district where GRCC leaders are hitting the pavement - listening, learning and sharing information about the millage and role of GRCC in our economy, workforce, and community. We are also doing huge door-to-door blitzes in the coming weeks along with GOTV phone calls. I can assure you, the people last Spring who said they did not know what the millage was for will not be able to say the same.