The 2010 Census: Effective Messaging and Promotion


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There are many challenges to achieving an accurate census count in 2010. Educating yourselves about the barriers to participation and motivators to respond will help your organization use effective communication strategies and messages in the upcoming months.

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The 2010 Census: Effective Messaging and Promotion

  1. 1. The 2010 Census:<br />Effective Messaging &<br />Promotion Strategies<br />December 3, 2009<br />Terri Ann Lowenthal<br />Funders Census Initiative<br />
  2. 2. WHO IS MISSED IN THE CENSUS?<br />People of color<br />Low income populations/renters<br />Highly mobile people<br />Immigrants and people with limited English proficiency<br />People living in complex households<br />Adults without a high school diploma<br />Young children<br />Unemployed people<br />
  3. 3. CHALLENGES TO ACHIEVINGAN ACCURATE COUNT<br />Increased population diversity and growth of immigrant population<br />Anti-immigrant sentiment; call for Latino boycott<br />Post-9/11 and “Internet age” concerns about data confidentiality<br />Changes to 2010 census plan late in the process<br />Lack of complete testing of key systems and operations<br />Displacement and disengagement related to economic downturn and foreclosure crisis<br />
  4. 4. OVERVIEW OF 2010 CENSUS TIMELINE<br />Fall 2009: Local Census Offices open; recruitment begins<br />January 2010: Paid media campaign kicks off<br />Feb. - March: Update/Leave operation<br />March - April: Mail-out/Mail-back phase<br />April: Group Quarters enumeration<br />(e.g. college dorms; military barracks; prisons)<br />
  5. 5. May - July: Nonresponse Follow-Up phase (door to door visits to unresponsive households)<br />July - August: Coverage Follow-Up & Coverage Improvement operations<br />December 31, 2010: First population numbers reported<br />OVERVIEW OF 2010 CENSUS TIMELINE (con’t.)<br />
  6. 6. 2010 CENSUSCOMMUNICATIONS CAMPAIGN<br />Education phase (now)<br />Awareness phase (Jan. - March 2010)<br />General campaign<br />Five targeted campaigns<br />Motivational phase (March - July 2010)<br />Mail back your census form (March - April)<br />Cooperate with census takers (May - July)<br />
  7. 7. EFFECTIVE MESSAGING <br />Understanding and distinguishing<br />barriers to participationand<br />motivators to respond<br />is key to successful census outreach<br />and promotion campaigns.<br />
  8. 8. EFFECTIVE MESSAGING <br />Sources of information:<br />U.S. Census Bureau(<br />Hattaway Communications research for the Ford Foundation<br /> (recorded Webinar to be available soon) (<br />
  9. 9. EFFECTIVE MESSAGING:Cultural Factors <br />Black Population:<br />Knowledgeable about census and its uses<br />Skeptical that participation and an accurate count will benefit them and their communities<br />Most important potential benefits relate to community development: Health care (e.g. hospitals); education & schools; public transportation<br />
  10. 10. EFFECTIVE MESSAGING:Cultural Factors <br />Latino Population:<br />Low familiarity with census and its uses<br />Skeptical about benefits tied to census data<br />Concerned about misuse of their responses<br />Pride in community<br />Interested in building a better community<br />
  11. 11. EFFECTIVE MESSAGING:Cultural Factors <br />Asian Population:<br />Believe participation is a civic duty & responsibility<br />Mildly skeptical about benefits of participating<br />Skepticism possibly based on misconceptions about how data are used<br />
  12. 12. EFFECTIVE MESSAGING:Cultural Factors <br />American Indian Population:<br />Pride in community and self-identity are important factors<br />Do not view census as a civic duty<br />Skeptical that they will see benefits of participation in their communities<br />
  13. 13. EFFECTIVE MESSAGING:Cultural Factors <br />Non-Hispanic White:<br />Generally, high awareness of the census<br />Primary reason for not participating is lack of time<br />
  14. 14. MESSAGING STRATEGIES<br />Emphasize inclusiveness of census (and in-language outreach) to multicultural audiences <br />Highlight 10 minutes, 10 questions (e.g. the census is quick and easy)<br />Demystifythe census process<br />Show sample census form<br />Discuss process & timing of questionnaire delivery and door-to-door visits<br />Demystify how census responses are used<br />Show sample census data table<br />
  15. 15. MESSAGING STRATEGIES (con’t.)<br />Focus on tangible and visible benefits of an accurate census, instead of large dollar figures.(People are skeptical about vague promises of federal benefits and might wonder where the money comes from or when they will see it.)<br />Point to a recreation center or new subway route in your community, built with federal dollars allocated using census data, instead of emphasizing that $400 billion a year in federal program funds are allocated based on census numbers.<br />Point to private sector investment in your community, such as new retail stores, supermarkets, and businesses. Mention that businesses rely on census data to make decisions about where to locate and to provide goods and services. <br />
  16. 16. MESSAGING STRATEGIES (con’t.)<br />For people of color, emphasize diversity of population and inclusiveness of census, rather than singling out benefits for each group.<br />For immigrants, tell them directly (and show them) that the census form doesn’t ask about immigration status, instead of dwelling on vague promise of confidentiality.<br />
  17. 17. MESSAGING STRATEGIES (con’t.)<br />Use the word “count” both to refer to the census process (a count of our community) and to appeal to people’s pride (our community counts!).<br />Overall, rely on trusted voices to convey messages: teachers & principals; pastors; small business owners; community advocates who work with ex-offenders.<br />
  18. 18. MESSAGING STRATEGIES (con’t.)<br />Consistent messages are crucial.<br />Keep messages simple. For example: <br /> Be smart. Be counted. or Se inteligente. Déjate contar.<br />Repeat messages often.<br />Appeal to values. (For example, “Filling out the census helps our community fight for its fair share of government money.”)<br />Issue a compelling call to action.<br />
  19. 19. MESSAGING BARRIERS<br />Mood of country in a recession: Hope and optimism following Obama’s election have given way to uncertainty and skepticism about government’s ability to help people, families and communities in distress.<br />Solution: Don’t exaggerate benefits of an accurate census or over-promise results.<br />Solution: Appeal to sense of hope. Point to Obama’s election as example of how taking one step (voting) led to change (first Black president); remind them that concrete improvement in their lives is a slow process that requires continued action (such as participating in the census). “It’s time to take another step forward!”<br />
  20. 20. MESSAGING BARRIERS (con’t.)<br />Fear of misuse of data in a post-9/11 world: People are afraid that their individual responses will be shared with law enforcement, immigration authorities, landlords, and courts.<br />Solution: Tell people that the Census Bureau does not share their personal information with the police, child support enforcement, landlords or housing authorities, telemarketers, or any other government agency, such as I.C.E. or the IRS.<br />Solution: Tell people the Census Bureau doesn’t report your age, just the average age of people in your community. Show people a sample table of census data (available at<br />
  21. 21. STAY INFORMED!<br />Nonprofit Voter Engagement Network “Nonprofits Count!” ( <br />Free Census News Briefs(e-mail<br />The Census Project (<br />Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund (It’s Time. Make Yourself Count! campaign) (<br />U.S. Census Bureau (<br />Regional Census Offices(<br />Brookings Institution(<br />
  22. 22. CONTACT INFORMATION<br />Terri Ann Lowenthal<br />Legislative & Policy Consultant<br />E-mail:<br />
  23. 23. HOW NONPROFITS CAN PUT CENSUS MESSAGING TO WORK<br />Three effective tactics:<br /><ul><li>Existing communications
  24. 24. Inservice contacts
  25. 25. Community events </li></li></ul><li>Existing Communications<br /><ul><li> Newsletter, website, e-newsletter, blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc.</li></ul>Example: The 2010 Census is coming, and it will help determine the level of resources our community gets. The Census form has ten questions and will take about ten minutes to fill out. Your answers are 100% confidential. We are counting on YOU to fill out your census form so we can continue to fight for our fair share of resources and to ensure that all Minnesotans have access to affordable heat each winter. If you have questions or concerns about filling out your Census form, please contact us at XXX-XXXX or go to the Census website: <br />
  26. 26. Inservice and In-person Contacts<br /><ul><li>In lobby</li></ul> Poster, materials, flyers<br /><ul><li>At intake or point of service</li></ul> Reminder that the Census is coming<br /><ul><li> Community events</li></ul> Census-specific OR existing events<br />
  28. 28. Partner with the Census Bureau<br /><ul><li>Partnering is simple
  29. 29. Access to Census promotional materials
  30. 30. Nonprofits are key partners for the Census Bureau
  31. 31. Find your Regional Census Office at</li></ul><br />
  32. 32. Promote Questionnaire Assistance Centers and Be Counted Centers<br />QACs: Census enumerator on site to assist filling out the form; completed forms can be submitted<br />BCCs: Census form available if someone lost or didn’t receive their form; language assistance guides are available; completed forms can be submitted<br />Nonprofits can promote QACs and BCCs by:<br /><ul><li>Hosting a QAC or BCC
  33. 33. Referring clients to QACs and BCCs
  34. 34. locations will be available at</li></li></ul><li>Participate in Community Census Efforts<br /><ul><li>Census coalitions or roundtables
  35. 35. Complete Count Committees at the state, county, or municipal level</li></li></ul><li>RESOURCES AVAILABLE THROUGH NONPROFITS COUNT!<br /><ul><li> Census Toolkit for Nonprofits
  36. 36. Posters for agency lobbies
  37. 37. Clickable 50-state map</li></ul><br />
  38. 38. CONTACT INFORMATION<br />Robynne Curlee<br /><br />651.757.3086<br />