Strengthen Our Schools (SOS)

Client: Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association (HCTA)
Industry: Public Education / Political Campaign

Challenge:

In August of 2018, The Hillsborough County School Board voted to add a 10-year half-penny tax referendum on the November 6 ballot. The referendum would raise more money for school repairs and construction. The district has struggled to keep the air conditioning working at its 200-plus schools. If passed, the tax would bring in roughly an additional $131 million each year, covering the one billion dollar deficit regarding these issues.

Solution:

Exactly nine weeks before the mid-term elections, HCP Associates was engaged to execute an eight week campaign for Strengthen Our Schools, a paid political campaign created and funded by the local labor union HCTA and public donations. The challenge was daunting due to a small budget, limited time frame and a very controversial transportation tax also on the ballot.

HCP spent the first four days creating a brand, position, content, website, advertisements, direct mail, press releases, videos, social media pages, an aggressive paid/earned media strategy and budget to quickly execute a full-scale bi-partisan campaign that looked as if it was planned and created six months prior.

The goal of the SOS campaign was to educate “all” voters with the facts and figures that supported the need for the tax. About two weeks into the campaign, HCP was notified that Referendum No. 3 would be at the bottom of the ballot; even below the transportation referendum.

With thousands of yard signs, hundreds of thousands of direct mailers, thousands of social media posts, digital billboards, Google AdWords, programmatic banners, endless people-on-the-street video interviews, weekly town hall meetings and dozens of bi-partisan endorsements, HCP began to focus on a regional public relations strategy that would promt people to “Vote from the Bottom Up!” One of the most popular press releases distributed statewide on PR Newswire explained the differences between referendums and amendments.

By the end of the campaign, HCP’s tactics reached nearly six million unique impressions. Despite the challenges, on November 6, 2018, Hillsborough County Referendum No. 3 passed with 56.35 percent of residents voting “For” the tax.

The Hillsborough County Public School System is the eighth largest school district in the United States with over 250 K-12 schools. The district serves almost 200,000 students, approximately 16,000 teachers and 4,500 educational support personnel.