Community Engagement Client Videos
Client: Takata Airbag Recall
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…
In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, regional flooding expert Jim Blackburn asked Outreach Strategists to assist in developing a mechanism to keep the public engaged and informed on the issue of flood resiliency…
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…
Houston is facing a growing loss of affordable homes, a problem compounded by Hurricane Harvey’s damage to a significant portion of the city’s affordable homes. In response to this need, over the next several years, the City of Houston plans…
The Harris County Flood Control District selected Outreach Strategists as its contractor to perform community engagement and public outreach services for its newly organized Encroachments Division and for large-scale…
In 2021, Harris County Resources for Children and Adults (HCRCA, formerly Harris County Protective Services) adopted a new name. HCRCA launched a rebranding initiative to increase public awareness of the free services they provide…
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…
Outreach Strategists was tasked with assisting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston District, in planning and executing its twice-yearly Stakeholder Engagement Forum. This Forum is a key event for the Galveston District, as it brings…
Workforce Solutions – Gulf Coast is the public workforce development agency serving Houston- Harris County and the surrounding 13 county region. Outreach Strategists was selected for a 4-year contract by Workforce Solutions to provide a full …
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.
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 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.
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.
Gulfcoast Workforce Solutions
Workforce Solutions – Gulf Coast is the public workforce development agency serving Houston- Harris County and the surrounding 13 county region. Outreach Strategists was selected for a 4-year contract by Workforce Solutions to provide a full suite of public affairs and community engagement services, as well as media relations, focusing on both the general public and on regional employers.
Outreach Strategists has assisted Workforce Solutions in planning strategic engagement with key regional stakeholders. We have planned and led key public events, such as rolling out a series of roundtable discussions on Workforce Solutions’ semi-annual regional Workforce Report Card. We have pursued earned media opportunities to highlight the success of Workforce Solutions’ programs, and highlight the successes of both employers and employees who have benefited from its services. Outreach Strategists has advised Workforce Solutions on social media, and produces regular features highlighting monthly employment reports and explaining their significance in plain English. We have also been in a leadership role in planning, executing, and generating awareness and media coverage for Workforce Solutions’ annual ‘Hiring Red, White & You’ veteran’s job fair, the largest such event in Texas. In addition to securing media coverage, we have also taken the lead in creating original video that Workforce Solutions features on both its website and social media.
In 2019 alone, Outreach Strategists secured 72 unique media hits for Workforce Solutions, with an equivalent ad value of over $700,000. Our work on strategic engagement has created multiple partnerships for the agency with large regional employers and public officials. Our staff have been instrumental in planning and executing many high-profile events including career office grand openings, ‘Hiring Red, White & You’ job fair, multi-agency meetings, and community-based roundtables that have deepened key relationships. Events have attracted support from high- level guests including Mayor Turner, City of Houston council members, and other elected officials at all levels of government.
Harris County Resources for Children and Adults Branding
In 2021, Harris County Resources for Children and Adults (HCRCA, formerly Harris County Protective Services) adopted a new name. HCRCA launched a rebranding initiative to increase public awareness of the free services they provide to the community. Outreach Strategists was engaged to help HCRCA reach the people it needs to serve, and to help the broader public understand their mission with our communications and marketing support.
To create a rebranding initiative, Outreach Strategists began by engaging in a discovery process to inform research strategies. Outreach Strategists utilized findings from the research phase to guide the strategic plan for increasing brand and organizational awareness. The discovery process included individual interviews with stakeholders as well as a series of focus groups – exploring how target audiences acquire information and make decisions as well as specific messaging to evaluate salience and effect.
Informed and empowered with critical take-aways from this research, the Creative Team at Outreach Strategists designed content to elevate the understanding of HCRCA, increase trust, and ultimately increase brand awareness. This involved a 3-part process including a brand audit, development of the brand, and development of a brand manual. Brand elements were developed simultaneously to define: “Who we are”, and how we serve our community, “How we look”, to conceptualize creative materials and “How we sound and write” to communicate with a consistent voice. With input from key stakeholders including staff, board and community input, our team employed an iterative process to develop a new logo, a messaging guide, and a communications strategy. A formal brand manual was developed as well as new collateral for the organization and guidance for launching the brand on social media and in other digital spaces.
Outreach Strategists produced high-quality marketing materials, including a logo designed to reach key audiences with specificity and precision. By utilizing a number of strategic tactics, Harris County Resources for Children and Adults is now positioned to reach more individuals and reduce previous confusion on who they are and the services they provide.
Outreach Strategists work is helping HCRCA fashion a distinct and effective brand with the public, manage their interactions with the press and generate earned and digital media coverage. Outreach Strategists is also promoting the agency as a source for reliable information and subject matter experts on topics ranging from family and domestic relations, caregiving, social service provision, and more with the overall goal of creating positive public perception for the agency and cultivating a distinct brand HCRCA.
HARRIS COUNTY FLOOD CONTROL DISTRICT
The Harris County Flood Control District selected Outreach Strategists as its contractor to perform community engagement and public outreach services for its newly organized Encroachments Division and for large-scale civil engineering and flood mitigation projects within the White Oak Bayou Watershed in central Harris County. This work includes federally- required communications and outreach to the more than 400,000 residents living within the watershed’s boundaries. Outreach Strategists provides guidance and facilitation on community meetings, collateral design, crisis communications, and a variety of other services to deliver clear and effective content for this large public agency.
Outreach Strategists has identified potential community advocates for flood mitigation projects along the White Oak Bayou, and developed a comprehensive database of civic, non-profit, advocacy, and neighborhood contacts. We have also developed comprehensive communications plans to keep residents and business located within the watershed up to date on the status of projects already underway, preparing to get underway, or in the planning stages. From conducting “zero contact” literature drops to inform neighborhoods of upcoming construction to developing video content that explains in layman’s terms complex engineering and construction projects, we provide strategic communications and guidance that help keep these federally-funded projects moving forward, on time, and on budget.
Outreach Strategists staff have attended more than 100 community, civic club, super neighborhood, and homeowner association meetings within the White Oak Bayou Watershed to listen and learn about community concerns around flooding, flood control infrastructure projects, and determine community leaders and other advocates the Flood Control District could engage to build community consensus and support for future projects. We have also written and presented five communications plans relating to various projects the Flood Control District will undertake over the next two years and been tasked with re-writing and updating the White Oak Bayou Watershed website to be more user friendly and engaging to the public.
Bayou City Initiative
In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, regional flooding expert Jim Blackburn asked Outreach Strategists to assist in developing a mechanism to keep the public engaged and informed on the issue of flood resiliency.
The Bayou City Initiative (BCI) was created as a non- profit with the role of convening community groups and grassroots leaders on this core issue. BCI achieves this mission by building awareness, sharing research, fostering and convening discussion, and pursuing accountability of public officials.
Outreach Strategists has engaged 50+ Greater Houston community, non-profit, and civic organizations to promote regional flood literacy, preparedness, and solutions. Our coalition ranges from national name- brand organizations including AARP, to regional leaders such as Baker Ripley, to neighborhood-level organizations such as the Alief Super Neighborhood Alliance.
Over 50 civic and non-profit organizations have joined BCI as community partners, and many other organizations and individuals participate and contribute to BCI’s mission. BCI’s work has helped to keep flood resiliency at the top of the minds of Houston leaders and as a central topic of ongoing public debate and conversations. BCI’s social media has generated over 3,500 unique engagements and serves as an active forum for discussion among community members. Our meeting design has helped to generate multiple news stories about BCI and its mission, and we have partnered with Rice University’s Baker Institute to host a Hurricane Harvey retrospective presentation and panel discussion joined by Tom McCasland, Director of the City of Houston’s Department of Housing and Community Development. BCI continues to engage elected officials to disseminate important information to its many coalition partners.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Outreach Strategists was tasked with assisting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston District, in planning and executing its twice-yearly Stakeholder Engagement Forum. This Forum is a key event for the Galveston District, as it brings together numerous partner and stakeholder groups across the Texas Gulf Coast region to hear updates from the Corps on projects and to share their thoughts and concerns. As Army Corps projects depend upon local matching dollars, strong lines of communication between the District and its numerous partners is a chief concern. The 2018 Summer Forum also represented the first large-scale engagement event for the District following Congress’s disaster relief funding allocation and was joined by Mr. Ryan Fisher, the second highest-ranking official of the Army Corps of Engineers.
Outreach Strategists worked with the Galveston District to plan and develop the Forum agenda and key message framing that would best emphasize the District’s concerns. We conducted outreach to the District’s nearly 500 identified stakeholders and key persons, and developed collateral materials including comment cards. Outreach Strategists also designed a panel discussion with local officials focused on cost-sharing, to be moderated by Galveston County Judge James Yarbrough. After the forum itself, we prepared an after-action report and provided an analysis of the participant comment cards.
The Forum was hugely successful, especially in imparting key messaging to stakeholders. Over 250 public officials and stakeholders attended the Forum, including a large majority of invitees identified by the District as being high priority. Over 90% of the collected comment cards indicated that the Forum fulfilled the reason for the respondents’ attendance.
City of Houston Housing and Community Development
Houston is facing a growing loss of affordable homes, a problem compounded by Hurricane Harvey’s damage to a significant portion of the city’s affordable homes. In response to this need, over the next several years, the City of Houston plans to invest almost $1 billion to build, repair, and support homes for low- and moderate-income residents. To successfully preserve and create affordable homes, the City of Houston sought framing, messaging, and communication recommendations to tailor messaging to build public and community support for new affordable homes.
Outreach Strategists conducted a comprehensive research study composed of a literature review (national scope), local partner and expert interviews, and six neighborhood focus groups to develop a set of best practices tailored to the uniquenesses of Houston to communicate in favor of affordable homes.
Outreach Strategists provided a foundational, tactical messaging guide specific to Houston and its unique and diverse needs for the City, non-profit advocates, and residents or other proponents of affordable homes to use when communicating with the community. Included in the report were specific language, framing suggestions, various techniques, and substantiated recommendations for various neighborhood types and groups of residents.
Outreach Strategists continues its involvement with the City by developing a presentation series tailored for affordable developers on how best to implement these techniques and win support for affordable homes.
Pre-K 4 SA or Pre-Kindergarten for San Antonio, is the taxpayer-funded early childhood initiative in San Antonio, TX. Initially funded through a one-eighth of a cent sales tax on transactions within the city limits, the tax authority was due to expire in June 2021.
Outreach Strategists was retained to examine the standing of the program among San Antonio voters and evaluate the viability of expanding and extending the tax in the November 2020 election.
Outreach Strategists designed and implemented a qualitative and quantitative multi-partisan and multi-lingual research project.
Six focus groups were conducted across multiple days, evaluating attitudes towards early childhood education, perceptions on the dimensions of quality for early child programs, the standing of the existing program, and areas of risk and remediation.
The qualitative research was followed by quantitative studies to evaluate whether San Antonio taxpayers would vote to reauthorize the sales tax to fund PREK4SA, and tested messaging to evaluate the strongest pathways to reauthorization.
Even though San Antonio is heavily Democratic, with the pandemic-induced economic downturn, getting voter approval for any kind of tax was not guaranteed. The research identified a few areas of friction among certain types of voters.
A key area of inquiry centered on eligibility. Independent and Republican men were more critical of the existing eligibility regime, but were reassured by access for the children of active duty members of the military. Republicans were also encouraged by a private school grant program where non-public schools were incentivized to run similar programs in their own systems and schools.
All voters wanted evidence-based reassurance the program was operating as originally promised, and was having positive benefits for the community and the children and families being served.
The surveys showed strong and consistent support for reauthorizing funding for PREK4SA, and the ballot measure passed with 72.2 percent of the vote.
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 to 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-depth key-informant interviews with college leadership and faculty, including staff and instructors from 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 archetypes. What resulted was a comprehensive strategic plan that addressed community and institutional challenges, student needs, and systematic adjustments.
Hobby School of Public Affairs
The University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs is driven by a mission of putting creative, solutions-oriented public policy to work for the world through education and research. Driven by the increasing demand for public policy that works and for well-equipped public policy professionals, the Hobby School began to design a Master of Public Policy graduate degree program. The program would equip students with the skills and tools they need for careers in government, non-profit organizations, and business. Before rolling out the new program, the Hobby School looked to Outreach Strategists to better understand potential students, interest in the program, and what features might induce more students to take part in it.
Outreach Strategists conducted focus group analysis to assess the public interest in the new school’s curriculum and degree design, and to inform marketing messages and collateral. The reportage and analysis helped the school better understand their public audience and provide degree solutions that satisfied their needs while also increasing the prestige of the institution. The Outreach Strategists team collaborated with the Hobby School to develop, clarify, and launch a key strategy to perform successful focus groups. Outreach Strategists worked with the Hobby School team to guide them through several options on how information could be acquired through the focus group process and used to perform future planning.
Based on findings of the focus group, Outreach Strategists developed a series of strategies and recommendations for the Hobby School to improve the brand recognition and attractiveness of its Master of Public Policy program to potential students. Recommendation included ideas for initial branding, promoting involvement and community participation, emphasizing long-term benefits of the degree program, and the importance of flexible class options. The final report and recommendations were used by the Hobby School to refine and target its messaging and outreach strategy for the successful launch of its new Master of Public Policy program.