The Boston Foundation

Challenge

The Boston Foundation (TBF) devotes its resources to building and sustaining a vital, prosperous city and region, where justice and opportunity are extended to everyone. The Boston Foundation engaged O’Neill and Associates to provide integrated public affairs services, including government relations and communications, to support its efforts to advance education reform legislation in Massachusetts and position the Commonwealth for federal education funding through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s Race to the Top grant competition.

Solution

O’Neill and Associates developed and implemented a legislative and public affairs campaign which included the following:

  • Organizing the Race to the Top Coalition, a diverse statewide consortium of 15 business, civic, and community organizations who share the common goal of closing the state’s persistent achievement gap and relaxing the cap on charter schools through passage of education reform and helping Massachusetts successfully compete for federal Race to the Top stimulus funds;
  • Conducting a messaging workshop with key coalition members to develop a comprehensive campaign plan, including main campaign messages and sub messages specific to the localized audience;
  • Facilitating face-to-face meetings with mayors, key legislators and committee staff, bringing key business leaders and coalition members where relevant;
  • Managing the Coalition’s leaders and their complex legislative agenda through daily conference calls and meetings; and
  • Developing and implementing a comprehensive lobbying campaign to secure passage for the implementation of this program, focusing on key legislators and members of the Patrick administration.

O’Neill and Associates also developed a public relations and communications plan which included the following:

  • Securing editorials and drafting and placing leadership op-eds into major local and regional media outlets in favor of these reforms and the cost of legislative inaction;
  • Pitching storylines and interviews to garner news stories in print, radio and television outlets on elements of the legislation such as funding, impact on the achievement gap, and comparisons with other states;
  • Managing a paid advertising campaign on regional radio; and
  • Developing content for a web presence for the campaign that was used to inspire grassroots legislative outreach and share news and supporting research.

Results

Over the course of this campaign, O’Neill and Associates secured extensive media for the Race to the Top Coalition including leadership op-eds and coverage by the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Cape Cod Times, Lowell Sun, MetroWest Daily News, Patriot Ledger, Worcester Telegram & Gazette., New England Cable News, WBUR, and other outlets. The effort culminated with the passage of education reform legislation with all elements envisioned by The Boston Foundation. Signed by Governor Deval Patrick on January 18, 2010, the bill enabled the state to successfully apply for and secure $250 million in stimulus funding to implement landmark reforms in public education. Of the 12 winning states, Massachusetts’ application scored the highest.

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