The Census Bureau is responsible for producing official population estimates which dictate how and where over $675 billion in federal funding is allocated each year. It is imperative that localities ensure as many residents respond to the Census…
Outreach Strategists has conducted continuous community and public engagement activities for AARP Texas since 2011, focused on the Greater Houston region. AARP struggled with developing local angles on many of its key, national-level issues…
With the passage of the Affordable Care Act and the rollout of healthcare exchanges, Blue Cross BlueShield of Texas launched the non-profit Be Covered coalition to educate the public about health insurance and the enrollment process. The…
The Houston Police Department (HPD) is the fifth-largest in the United States, with over 5,000 sworn officers and over 1,000 civilian personnel, serving what has been identified by demographers as the most diverse city in the nation. Outreach…
Houston Community College (HCC) is the second largest community college in Texas and the seventh largest public junior college in the country. When the time came to complete their next 10-year Strategic Plan, they turned to Outreach Strategists…
Hurricane Harvey devastated the Houston region in 2017 delivering unprecedented amounts of flood damage to homes large and small. In early 2019, Harris County and the City of Houston (COH) were awarded approximately $1 billion dollars each…
The Takata Airbag Recall is the largest automobile safety recall in U.S. history. When deployed, these defective airbags can launch metal shrapnel at the driver and passengers in a vehicle, potentially injuring or even killing them. The Houston-Harris…
Uber hired Outreach Strategists to assist its public engagement and government relation efforts in the Houston. This came as the City of Houston enacted regulations on rideshare companies that led to many of these companies pulling out of…
The Census Bureau is responsible for producing official population estimates which dictate how and where over $675 billion in federal funding is allocated each year. It is imperative that localities ensure as many residents respond to the Census as possible. Outreach Strategists has been at the forefront of regional efforts to drive up response rates in Harris County, the City of Houston, and Fort Bend County.
In Harris County and the City of Houston, Outreach Strategists oversees a $4 million project consisting of outreach, communications, and data vendors. Our role is to provide strategic guidance in concert with vendors, task management ensuring data-driven implementation sourced from project’s data science assets (experiments, surveys, and predictive models), facilitate streamlined communication between vendors, and prevent duplication of efforts with other partners operating in the space such as elected officials, the United States Census Bureau, and other operating entities.
Additionally, Outreach Strategists, knowing the importance of community outreach and involvement also leaned on the community support of Fort Bend County and created a Complete County Committee to both provide feedback on our strategies and to inform traditionally hard to count populations of the importance of the federal census.
Outreach Strategists secured over $250,000 in in-kind donations for advertisement of the coordinated campaign. Outreach Strategists, utilizing data-driven strategies, also works to ensure that all collateral is distributed in areas that reflect the most hard to count populations.
In Fort Bend County, currently ranked first amongst counties in the state for response rate of residents, Outreach Strategists developed a layered campaign focused on digital and direct outreach. Outreach Strategists did this through securing over $400,000 in funding to support direct mail, peer-to-peer and SMS, and digital advertising in targeted hard to count communities in Fort Bend County. In the course of a single month the aggressive digital advertising campaign designed and initiated by Outreach Strategists reached more than 120,544 residents, aggregating 958,402 total impressions, and creating more and 2,500 click-thrus to the federal census website.
Outreach Strategists has conducted continuous community and public engagement activities for AARP Texas since 2011, focused on the Greater Houston region. AARP struggled with developing local angles on many of its key, national-level issues, and needed local experts who could develop programs and initiatives to give a human face to public policy outcomes. Our varied projects have included building community engagement strategies, conducting in-depth research into underserved communities, building strategic local partnerships, and supporting community-based coalitions.
Among our initiatives with AARP have been engaging the Greater Houston community on the matters of payday lending and complete streets, an initiative to improve transportation for motorists, public transit riders, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Both of these matters are public policy issues in the hands of the City of Houston and were led by different coalitions. We developed and executed a strategic messaging and outreach plan for both of these matters designed to gather public attention in the media and build productive working relationships with the City.
In its strategic planning, AARP asked Outreach Strategists to conduct an in-depth study into the South Asian community of Greater Houston. Our research combined quantitative data gathered from the U.S. Census and by leading Houston demographers with qualitative data from focus groups and in-depth interviews conducted in conjunction with key community organizations.
Most recently we have assisted AARP’s efforts in creating a community-driven Age Friendly/Livable Communities Plan, which has united over 200 leaders across Houston’s diverse communities and interest groups to produce a comprehensive plan for the city going into the new decade.
Our efforts with the City of Houston on complete streets led to an Executive Order in October 2013, and our payday lending work resulted in an ordinance being passed in December 2013. Both policies were in the local news frequently during this period as we conducted an aggressive media relations campaign that drew attention to them in the public space.
Our report on the South Asian community of Greater Houston has served as an important source of information for AARP at the local, state, and national levels as it expands its outreach efforts to Asian Americans. The report has also been a resource for the local South Asian community, and its findings have led to the creation of at least one non-profit group focused on meeting the needs of seniors.
With the passage of the Affordable Care Act and the rollout of healthcare exchanges, Blue Cross BlueShield of Texas launched the non-profit Be Covered coalition to educate the public about health insurance and the enrollment process. The campaign was particularly focused on the under‑privileged, many whom would qualify for cost-sharing subsidies, and sought to empower them to make informed health care decisions.
BlueCross BlueShield of Texas is the state’s largest insurer. Working with BlueCross BlueShield, Outreach Strategists created a campaign in Houston and Dallas [the states’ two most populous cities] to educate consumers about the Affordable Care Act and create awareness around the health care exchange markets. We built and drove a grass‑tops healthcare coalition of over 160 community partners, including non-profits and faith groups, who shared critical information with their constituents. Community partners were provided with regular, up-to-date talking points and collateral materials, and these efforts were supported by active social media and earned media campaigns to create a wrap-around narrative that would communicate the importance of enrollment and critical deadlines across multiple mediums.
Be Covered partners and staff participated in and distributed information at more than 500 public events in targeted communities, driving awareness and participation among traditionally hard to reach communities. Community partners shared information and multi-language collateral through e-blasts, social media, and digital and print newsletters. In total, the campaign reached an estimated 670,000 people through trusted messengers, which led to an increase in ACA enrollments that exceeded initial expectations.
This successful program ran for three years, and our firm was recently retained to reinitiate the program, following a dip in health insurance enrollments in 2018.
The Houston Police Department (HPD) is the fifth-largest in the United States, with over 5,000 sworn officers and over 1,000 civilian personnel, serving what has been identified by demographers as the most diverse city in the nation. Outreach Strategists was hired by to design and conduct a TCOLE certified cultural intelligence training curriculum that would foster critical thinking skills and build on mutual respect and trust between HPD personnel and the diverse communities that they serve in order to increase Departmental-wide effectiveness.
The training curriculum we designed combined scenario-based and role play exercises with after-action reviews to help HPD personnel cement learning and to build empathy. In designing course content, we conducted numerous meetings and collected extensive input from organizations that represent a broad cross-section of Houston’s diverse communities, including the NAACP, LULAC, and the Urban League, to ensure broad-based community support for the training program.
Curriculum placed HPD personnel in scenarios where the department confronted events that had created strain between law enforcement and one of the many subsets of the Greater Houston community. Some HPD personnel would be asked to represent law enforcement, but a larger number represented other segments of the community, such as members of an advocacy organization, family members of persons involved in an incident with law enforcement, elected officials navigating the concerns of their constituents, and members of the press. Through this training, we facilitated productive discussion and participation in these role-playing scenarios so that HPD personnel learned from not just our trainers, but from each other as well.
Our training program was attended by HPD’s over 6,000 sworn, civilian, and command staff over a period of 18 months. As an integral part of this training module, Outreach Strategists conducted reviews with HPD personnel to assess the effectiveness of the course content and exercises. Based on these reviews, we made iterative refinements and improvements to the curriculum and exercise design that led to better results and more effective training experiences. Based on quantitative data from participant evaluation forms, nearly 90% of HPD personnel expressed a strong appreciation for the quality, usefulness, and timeliness of the training.
The training course was subsequently highlighted in a publication by the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
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Houston Community College
Houston Community College (HCC) is the second largest community college in Texas and the seventh largest public junior college in the country. When the time came to complete their next 10-year Strategic Plan, they turned to Outreach Strategists for help. HCC faced unique challenges gathering insights and ideas from a diverse pool of both internal and external stakeholders from across the most diverse city in the country. HCC’s leadership, faculty, staff, and students as well as Houston’s faith-based, business, educational, non-profit, and international communities all had a role to play in contributing the plan’s effectiveness and success. It was our job to help them communicate and collaborate with each group to craft a plan that was truly representative of the communities HCC serves.
To assist in building these connections for HCC, we oversaw outreach to hundreds of various local community groups, institutions of faith, area school districts, business groups, non-profits, and private companies. Each with a different perspective on how HCC should move into the future. Leveraging our extensive connections, we set out to conduct community meetings to present HCC’s vision for the strategic plan and gather feedback from community stakeholders. These smaller, localized meetings were the catalyst for separate, larger meetings where the feedback was refined and ultimately incorporated into the strategic plan.
We also relied on our experience conducting first-person research to gather input from HCC’s internal audience. With over 65,000 students enrolling annually and more than 3,000 faculty and staff, it was vital to include them in the strategic planning process. To do this, we conducted student “pop-up shops” at every campus to survey students on their experiences and suggestions. We conducted in-dept key-informant interviews with college leadership and faculty, including staff and instructors form the each of the Colleges many campuses and programs.
Over the course of 18 months, we conducted over 45 different community meetings, roundtables, pop-up shops, employee forums, and surveyed over 2,000 students and faculty/staff members. Using the survey data and feedback, “personas” were developed with the idea that any change in college policy must address issues faced by these individual student architypes. What resulted was a comprehensive strategic plan that addressed community and institutional challenges, student needs, and systematic adjustments.
Hurricane Harvey devastated the Houston region in 2017 delivering unprecedented amounts of flood damage to homes large and small. In early 2019, Harris County and the City of Houston (COH) were awarded approximately $1 billion dollars each in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to set up programs with these funds to provide homeowner assistance to those affected. Homeowners turned to the disaster recovery programs Project Recovery Harvey run by Harris County and Build it Forward run by the City of Houston to apply for assistance on their road to recovery. The City of Houston and Harris County looked to Outreach Strategists to raise awareness of this much needed funding.
Outreach Strategists engaged in various roles within the county and city programs to help applicants get started in the process as quickly as possible. Our primary role was to manage outreach and engagement for Project Recovery Harvey run by Harris County while our role in Houston’s Build it Forward program was to coordinate a citywide canvassing initiative.
Over the course of our outreach, we presented at over 200 community events across Harris County delivering presentations and doing pre-application intake, the first step toward assistance. Through our efforts, more than 8,000 people filled out a pre-application, exceeding the goal for the program.
Because of our close ties to local community organizations, we recruited and engaged local partners that know their neighbors best, as experts in their community to help spread the word to those affected. We also developed original social media content that they shared across several platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and Nextdoor.
Over the course of a year, we engaged approximately 180 organizations to share information about Project Recovery including 217 social media posts, spoke at over 200 community events, and secured 27 media hits worth $196,000. Through our outreach, more than 8,000 people filled out a pre-application for assistance in Harris County’s Project Recovery Harvey program. For Houston’s Build it Forward program, we knocked on over 180,000 doors and helped over 6,000 people apply for assistance. This resulted in the number of applications necessary for both the city and the county to determine eligibility and get homeowners one step closer on the road to recovery.
Federal Monitor for the Takata Airbag Recall
The Takata Airbag Recall is the largest automobile safety recall in U.S. history. When deployed, these defective airbags can launch metal shrapnel at the driver and passengers in a vehicle, potentially injuring or even killing them. The Houston-Harris County region had the largest number of unrepaired airbags in the nation and the federal monitor considered the region to be its top area of concern. The federal monitor tasked Outreach Strategists with developing a plan to build public engagement and awareness of the recall and the life-saving remedies available to vehicle owners.
Leveraging our institutional knowledge and connections throughout Houston-Harris County, we built a coalition of diverse leaders–both community and elected–and stakeholders throughout the region. We supported these coalition members in developing messaging, providing talking points, and collateral materials. Initial rollout of the Airbag Recall campaign launched by a press conference at Houston City Hall generated significant press coverage and immediately elevated the issue in the public conversation. As we continued to develop our engagement efforts, particularly focused on minority and low-income communities, we created a first‑of‑its‑kind canvass campaign for the recall, leveraging the depth of data available to the federal monitor to send trained professionals directly to the doors of owners of recalled vehicles.
Outreach Strategists has built a coalition of over 140 community leaders, organizations, non-profits, and faith groups across the Greater Houston region to create awareness of this life-saving recall and remedy. We further led our community coalition in developing a grassroots outreach plan in partnership with local elected leaders. Our canvassing campaign, the first of its kind for a product safety recall, has reached out to 135,000 households and has a conversion rate of over 80% when we reach people at their residences. Based on the success of this campaign, our engagement model is currently being implemented in the Los Angeles CA–and Fort Lauderdale, FL–regions.
Uber hired Outreach Strategists to assist its public engagement and government relation efforts in the Houston. This came as the City of Houston enacted regulations on rideshare companies that led to many of these companies pulling out of the Houston market entirely. As Super Bowl LI was approaching, Uber was also contemplating leaving the region. After failed attempts by other firms to assist in loosening the City’s regulations for a more hospitable business environment. Outreach Strategists was engaged by Uber as a last-ditch effort before pulling out of Houston entirely.
We worked with community and business stakeholders to create a coalition of interested parties that needed Houston to be seen in a favorable light during the Super Bowl. We leveraged this coalition to put pressure on the City to come to the table and ultimately arrived at a resolution with Uber, which led to the company continuing to operate in the Greater Houston region and highlighting their capabilities during the Super Bowl to deal with heavy transportation loads in Houston’s most densely populated areas.
Separate from this we were engaged in a traditional public affairs role, introducing Ubers representatives to government officials and key public stakeholders such at the City, public transportation board members and staff, and other regional elected officials. We connected them with public officials, assisted with press and journalism, and assisted with outreach and engagement with community stakeholders. We contributed to highlighting Uber’s thought leadership and best practices at the Texas Medical Center’s innovation hub related to health and bringing in stakeholders in healthcare.
Our engagement efforts with the City of Houston were key to Uber’s consideration to remain in Houston while other rideshare companies chose to leave the market. By working with community organizations, we created opportunities for Uber to demonstrate itself to be a good corporate citizen, and to demonstrate its knowledge and expertise.