At williams group / pr / LLC, we listen, we counsel, we guide - and we produce success.

"John has been instrumental in assisting the City to begin the process of information delivery to the public.

Although we are just in the infancy stages of this process, the path forward has been skillfully put together with the help of John."

Scott Dadson,
Beaufort City Manager

School facility referendum / $162.7 million
Beaufort County, SC
Spring 2008

Assessment:

  • A newly-arrived Superintendent of schools and a new Board of Education
  • Well-publicized financial and procurement difficulties with the last major referendum in the county in 2000
  • Downturn in national and local economy, including gasoline spiking to $4/gal
  • 10,000 residents in Sun City Hilton Head, an age-restricted active retirement community
  • Pervasive sense that one area of the county had received the bulk of recent school district facilities funding

Planning:

  • Capitalize on the new superintendent’s “honeymoon of trust”
  • Promote new internal facility and construction planning team
  • Showcase low tax impact (less than $16/year on a $200,000 home)
  • Identify key precincts and geographic areas needed to carry the vote, based on past voter trends, new demographic information, economic impact assessment on specific voter groups
  • Data-based decisions with full reporting of all studies
  • Need for multiple community information meetings for direct delivery of the referendum plan without media filters
  • Need for community-based leadership group to actively promote referendum passage via advertisements, website, direct marketing, phone polling, etc.

Communication:

  • Created fold-out brochure / poster detailing the need for a $162.7 million facility improvement plan, tax impact, list of projects
  • Created individual posters for each of 28 schools detailing what that school would receive from the referendum and from other capital improvement funding
  • Created new website as online library for all referendum-related documents, listing of upcoming community meetings, news releases, project updates and full facilities report
  • Booked the Superintendent to approximately 60 speaking engagements over three-month period for face to face presentation, distribution of brochures
  • Media relations included news releases, ghostwritten op/eds, letters to the editor
  • Lowcountry KidsFirst campaign committee independently raised funds for promotion of referendum, conducted its own marketing meetings based on precinct assessments
  • Created two short videos (six-eight minutes) showcasing crowded schools, students in mobile classrooms, long bus rides and changing demographics of Beaufort County School District; distributed these videos to all local cable providers

Evaluation:

  • The April 26, 2008 $162.7 million school bond referendum passed
  • Although Sun City residents opposed the referendum, key County precincts carried the vote.
  • Informal focus group findings showed strong penetration of brochure/poster, media relations campaign and website.