Even Slam-Dunk Initiatives Need a Strategic Communications Campaign in Texas

When it comes to elections, you can never take for granted what the public knows and how it will respond at the ballot box. Even on an issue that would seem to attract widespread support, educating the electorate is essential.

Take the recent bill creating the Centennial Parks Conservation Fund. If approved by Texas voters in November, this fund would invest $1 billion to buy more land for the state parks system. 

The bill was the brainchild of some prominent Republican and Democratic leaders who reached across the aisle to create the historic investment. If voters give it the green light, it gives the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department the ability to create dozens of new parks over the next several decades, conserving the land and the wildlife within it. 

Seems like a pretty straightforward proposition. But an investment of that magnitude is certain to attract attention and perhaps even debate. Is this how Texans want to spend $1 billion? Ensuring passage requires thorough planning and a robust communication campaign. Let’s take a closer look at the necessary steps and tactics to set up a winning campaign for this important initiative.

Texans Will Scrutinize Every Taxpayer Dollar Spent 

Although spending $1 billion for new state parks might seem like a popular, bipartisan issue, Texans take taxpayer spending seriously. They will need to be convinced, or at least reassured, that the government’s purchase of millions of acres of land should take priority over other worthwhile pursuits, such as teacher pay, border security, health care, energy grid reinforcement, and foster care reforms.

Historically, amendments to the Texas Constitution have been approved by voters 517 times and rejected 180 times. That’s a quarter of amendments failing. This should provide ample motivation to invest the time and money necessary to educate voters on the merits of the plan.

A Winning Campaign Should Look Backward and Forward 

Whether planning for a statewide constitutional amendment or a local election, the building blocks for your campaign should be similar: Research, message development, targeting, outreach, and mobilization. Here are some key points to consider when strategizing:

  1. Remember there’s no such thing as a sure thing. Educate yourself on the history of similar issues and understand the pitfalls others encountered. Be prepared to face opposition, and consider how to respond to inevitable attacks. Identify your most ardent supporters and likely opposition, and how to amplify the voices of your most persuasive and popular advocates.
  2. Campaigns cost money. You may have the best messaging or the most compelling position, but if they do not reach the electorate, they’re useless. Allocate funds accordingly for marketing, advertising, and communication initiatives.
  3. Take nothing for granted. Your position might be more popular according to the polls, but how are you ensuring your supporters are turning out at the ballot box? How are you making the issue relevant enough for them to show up on election day? Your campaign needs to not just engage and energize your supporters, it needs to activate them and ensure they’re there for you in November.

Know How to Spot the Cracks in Your Initiative’s Foundation 

No matter how much support you think it may draw, every initiative needs someone to play devil’s advocate. The danger lies in just assuming something like $1 billion for new state parks is an automatic win. 

It’s not. Somebody somewhere will have some reason to oppose it, and you can’t afford to be surprised, especially on election day. So, when working on a specific ballot initiative, a step-by-step strategy should include:

  • An analysis of the relevant issue’s history and previous challenges.
  • Research on potential opposition and their tactics.
  • Stakeholder mapping to determine the most important advocates and opponents for the specific initiative.
  • A tailored message for your supporting campaign, focusing on authenticity, engaging content, and expert insights.
  • Targeted communication and outreach campaigns for various regions, demographics, and key subgroups identified in your stakeholder analysis.
  • A plan to mobilize supporters on election day, including get-out-the-vote efforts.

Voter Campaigns in Texas Demand Strategic Communication

Building an effective campaign requires a holistic approach that combines research, data-driven insights, compelling messaging, and strategic audience engagement. Consider the following when managing your communications campaign:

Use Data to Drive the Discussion

Evidence-based decision-making is a crucial component of effective communications. By collecting and analyzing data on the electorate and your targeted audiences, you can better understand the opinions and concerns of both supporters and opponents. Utilize your research and data-driven insights to:

  • Identify which messages resonate with your targeted audiences and which ones do not.
  • Refine your messaging and communication tactics to address doubts and concerns.
  • Measure the progress of your campaign and identify areas for improvement.

Craft Compelling Messaging

Creating a powerful message that speaks to the hearts and minds of your audience is critical for campaign success. Be authentic, engaging, and expert in your approach, and:

  • Address the needs and concerns of both supporters and opponents.
  • Create personal, relatable stories that reflect the value of the initiative.
  • Keep your language clear and concise, avoiding jargon or an overly complex narrative.
  • Speak directly to the audience, encouraging dialogue and feedback through interactive content.

The Best Ballot Strategies Leave Nothing to Chance  

A robust communication campaign must have targeted audience engagement at its core. By combining data-driven insights and captivating messaging, your campaign will:

  • Demonstrate your credibility and knowledge on the fundamentals.
  • Be more likely to reach and influence both supporters and opponents.
  • Facilitate the mobilization of supporters on election day.

Overall, building a winning campaign for Texas’ Centennial Parks Conservation Fund will demand comprehensive research, compelling messaging, and strategic audience engagement, all while taking nothing for granted. 

As strategic communications and public affairs professionals, we appreciate the level of time and energy required to influence the outcome of any ballot initiative. If you’d like to learn more about how The Monument Group has approached similar campaigns, we’d love to chat

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