PACE Awards – Edge Partnerships
Public Affairs Campaign
Post-Labor Day School Start & Tourism Funding

Research

In 2006, Michigan’s post-Labor Day school start became law by popular vote. Since that time, a handful of legislators have attempted to reverse the law despite the $19.5 billion in tourism and $1 billion in state tax revenue generated by tourism. In addition, tourism funding is continually threatened during the annual appropriations process.

The Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association (MLTA) continues to serve as the primary proponent for the state’s tourism industry and retained Edge Partnerships in 2015 to campaign against legislative threats.

Prior to developing a strategic public affairs campaign, MLTA commissioned Mitchell Research for the third year in a row to conduct a study of likely Michigan General Election Voters. Goals of the study were as follows:

  • Determine if voters support beginning school after Labor Day
  • Determine if voters support beginning school after Labor Day when the holiday comes on Sept. 8
  • Determine what summer month – June, July or August – was the favorite month for vacationing.

On Aug. 10-11, 2015, a telephone survey was conducted of 1,075 likely voters in the 2016 General Election. The margin of error was +/- 2.99% for a 95% level of confidence. Likely voters was identified as the targeted audience since legislators are more likely to respond to the wishes of these important group.

The survey confirmed that, once again, almost three-fourths of Michigan voters support starting school after Labor Day. This have been the case for the past three year. Nearly two-thirds of voters also support the post-Labor Day start even when the holiday falls on the latest possible day, Sept. 8, as it did in 2015. Finally, August is the most favorite month for vacation, followed by July and June, respectively.

Edge reviewed and analyzed the data in developing the public affairs campaign. Cross tab analysis of the quantitative data provided insight based on gender, age, geographic location, race and age. This information was used to develop messaging and tactics to reach targeted audiences and, ultimately, end the legislative threat to Michigan’s post-Labor Day school start law.

 

Planning

Backed with compelling voter data, Edge developed a public affairs strategy targeting both legislators and the general public. The following tactics were incorporated in the plan:

  • Earned media using news releases and opinion columns for statewide distribution to Michigan media;
  • Innovative postcard and accompanying “trinket/treat” distribution campaign to state legislators;
  • Committee testimony; and
  • Grassroots advocacy with MLTA membership and professional lobbying.

Edge worked closely with MLTA, its members and lobbyist to distribute information, positively influence legislators and engage Michigan residents. The main objective was to stop legislation that would eliminate the post-Labor Day school law.

Objectives: Stop legislation to eliminate post-Labor Day school law & support Michigan tourism

 

Execution

This condensed, 2-month campaign launched prior to the Legislature’s summer break in July. Both earned media targeted at Michigan residents and direct communication with legislators had to commence in June and make an impact prior to budget passage and the summer break.

MLTA used its significant membership base to deploy a grassroots campaign with hundreds of calls and letters to legislators. In addition, a news release and opinion column were distributed statewide to generate comments and influence public opinion.

Four post cards were hand delivered to all 148 Michigan senators and representatives as well as the Governor’s office. Each post card carried interesting messaging to break through the noise of other special interest groups.

In addition, MLTA President Steve Yencich testified before the House and Senate appropriations committees to safeguard funding the Pure Michigan tourism campaign. He also met with key legislative leaders to stop the passage of legislation ending the post-Labor Day school start.

 

Evaluation

Michigan’s major newspaper and media outlets carried MLTA’s new releases and opinion columns. In addition, state residents engaged in the issue, writing posts and comments on the web and contacting their legislators.

Both objectives were met: the legislation died in committee and funding for Pure Michigan was not only restored but increased to attract more tourists to the Great Lakes State.

As a bonus, MLTA received a number of positive comments from legislative offices, noting the cleverness and fun aspect of the post card campaign.

 

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