Chaperone is a Grand Island-based PAC founded with the goal of changing the trajectory of Grand Island Public Schools (GIPS). For the 2022 general election, Chaperone endorsed three candidates for GIPS Board of Education: two write-ins in Ward A, Josh Sikes and Amanda Wilson; and one candidate in Ward B who had just been placed on the ballot by petition, Hank McFarland. Agency 877 was tasked with launching an election campaign for each of these candidates in addition to building up community trust in Chaperone.
With the late start in building a campaign combined with little-to-no awareness for the two write-in candidates and ballot candidate, we needed to not only build up platforms for each candidate but also build, assemble, and deploy relevant content.
Our campaign content for Hank was very direct and pointed. Amanda was more intimate and represented deep care for educators; she was relatable to other parents in the district. Josh had content that was approachable and showed that he just wanted the best for the students in the community. The candidates’ content stayed true to what they represented as people, professionals, and future board members.
Our biggest opponent in the campaign? Time. Chaperone had just been founded in April 2022, and the election campaigns were launched less than eight weeks before Election Day. In addition to this, the three candidates had never served in public office before and were going up against Board of Education incumbents.
Before diving into the campaign, it was essential to conduct research on the city of Grand Island and the structure of its voting wards. A shift in the population makeup had occurred within the last few years, and we wanted to ensure that it was understood how this would impact the voters that would be at the polls. After gathering this initial data, we did additional research into the socioeconomic makeup of each ward to identify how to best present candidates to the voting constituency. After talking to community members, candidates, and educators, we better understood the wide range of frustrations and motivations that led to the creation of Chaperone and the commitments from candidates. All of this information helped inform which campaign focuses and marketing tactics we would utilize to maximize impact in the short time that was left until election day.
Newspaper/ Media Relations
As a new organization, it was important for Chaperone’s identity to effectively communicate its mission to the community of Grand Island. Their logo was created using nine linked circles; the last three circles were separated to emphasize the ‘one’ of ‘Chaperone’ in addition to the organization’s tagline: One Vision, One Community, for EveryONE. These nine circles represent the nine seats on the GIPS Board of Education.
Chaperone was very new to Grand Island, and we needed to create reasons for the community to trust the organization before their endorsements carried any weight. Furthermore, we wanted to position Chaperone as a bi-partisan organization that existed to support the local community by improving the current state of the schools.
Our goal for the website was to keep it simple and concise while supplying visitors with the necessary details, including information about the local election process, ward details, organization FAQs, and landing pages for each candidate. We worked with Chaperone and the candidates to regularly refresh the website with relevant news and campaign updates.
We created campaign Facebook pages from the ground up for each of Chaperone’s candidates. These pages served as our primary method of engaging with voters.
The social media strategy focused on volume. Because none of the candidates had Facebook pages or established audiences within their wards, we focused on sharing a steady stream of content in an effort to maximize impressions and reach. We worked with the candidates to build organic content consisting of their thoughts on the survey, videos about why they were running, and some AMA (Ask Me Anything) events to create engagement with voters.
Because Chaperone had already established a small audience in Grand Island, we wanted to build segments by ward in order to ensure that the online audience size would reflect voter turnout. While we were building and posting candidate content, we were also working to create content that helped establish the credibility of Chaperone and their decision to endorse the candidates.
To introduce the three candidates, share their background, and establish their campaign platform, Agency 877 filmed and produced several campaign videos. These videos were primarily used on the candidates’ Facebook pages, where they garnered [impressions stat].
Print materials are a crucial part of a successful campaign. We developed yard signs for each candidate in addition to informational flyers that were passed out in the appropriate GIPS wards before Election Day. Josh and Amanda’s signs were designed to replicate a ballot with a vote cast for a write-in candidate, while their flyers included steps on how to cast a vote for a write-in.
These educational print materials were highly effective in informing voters how to properly write in a candidate: nearly 50% of the votes cast in Ward A were for write-in candidates!
GIPS conducted an internal Panorama Survey in regard to the 2021-2022 school year. The full results of the survey are not publicly accessible, which fed into the already-growing community concern about the school district’s climate. With the Chaperone candidates being very vocal about demanding transparency from GIPS administration, we saw a great opportunity to prove to voters that the candidates would deliver on their promises.
We developed our own survey to give the GIPS teachers a safe and confidential space to offer their thoughts and opinions about what was happening within the school district. Not only would we publish the results in order to show transparency, but we also hoped to establish community trust and awareness in Chaperone.
The survey was given to members of the GIPS teacher’s union to distribute among fellow teachers and garnered nearly 30% of teaching staff participation. A survey announcement including a handful of results was published in The Grand Island Independent, with the full survey results being available for public viewing on the Chaperone website.
The survey was a pivotal moment in the campaign, drawing statewide attention and criticism, ultimately creating the most conversation thus far in the election.
We launched the campaign two months before Election Day, our candidates had never held public office before, they were going up against incumbents, and two of the three were write-in candidates. In other words, the odds of winning were not in our favor. However, our strategies and efforts proved successful and we helped all three of our candidates capture a win!
Both write-in candidates in Ward A won a seat with Josh securing 2,144 votes (23.97% of the vote) and Amanda Wilson garnering 2,030 votes (22.7% of the vote). With over 46% of the Ward A votes being cast for Chaperone’s endorsed write-in candidates, this was a huge victory for Josh and Amanda, Chaperone, and Agency 877. In Ward B, Hank McFarland achieved a landslide victory with 2,319 votes or 65.94% of the vote, easily defeating his incumbent opponent.