Category Archive for: ‘Resources’

  • Part 3: Myths and facts about passing a tax initiative

    This is the final segment of our three-part myths and facts series.

    MYTH: Everyday terms like, “It’ll only cost the same as one pizza a month” make it easier for voters to (I’m so sorry) swallow the proposal.

    FACT: Just lay out the dollars and cents, preferably the annual cost for the owner of a typically priced home in the district.

    We have conducted extensive post-loss surveys that clearly show when the district uses monthly or daily costs or tries to equate the costs of a ballot issue to something inexpensive, voters routinely tell us they felt like they were being duped. This is not our opinion. This is solid data accumulated over 11 years.

    If a campaign that used such a tactic was successful, our suspicion is it was in spite of trying to find a simple, frivolous way to take a serious subject and make it seem more palatable.

    Why is this wrong?

    First, it takes the focus off of where it should be – on how the referendum will benefits students, families, staff and the community, by talking about pizzas. It almost sounds like a fundraiser. And anyone who wants to foist another one of those on parents raise your hand. Anybody?

    Second, it deals with replacement rather than investment. Instead of buying that pizza, think of the children. Again, you are taking a simple message and gumming it up with this presto change act.

    Third, and most importantly, this approach assumes equality. Not everyone in your community makes a regular Starbucks run, has a family pizza night, or takes in a movie once a month. Assuming they do put the school district into the “they just don’t get me” category, this casts a negative tone over the population that fits this description.

    So, how should you state the cost?

    • Provide an annual or monthly tax increase – not both – and don’t pick monthly just because the number looks smaller. Use if it fits with your past presentations on such a subject. Otherwise, use the annual number.
    • State the market value for those owners of an average value home. Here’s where it is best to pick a round number ($150,000) rather than the exact average value, which could be something squirrelly like $141,312. Make it easy for people to do the math for their home.
    • In brochures or other large form informational pieces, say, “If your home value is higher, your tax increase will be more. If your home value is lower, your tax increase will be less.”

    Patron Insight started doing this when an unusually high (two or three on one survey is unusually high to us) number of people said either, “Why do people who only live in $150,000 homes have to pay?” or “I don’t know anyone who lives in a home that is exactly $150,000.”

    The bottom line is a pre-election planning survey is a no-brainer expense that will help you pass your ballot issue. Our success rate on predicting election outcomes is 97% accurate. Again, that’s solid data – not a pie in the sky.

  • DeSieghardt Receives MOSPRA Distinguished Service Award

    March 27, 2019

    The Missouri School Public Relations Association has named Ken DeSieghardt the 2019 Distinguished Service Award recipient.  The award was presented at the MOSPRA Annual Awards Banquet at the Lodge of Four Season, Lake Ozark, Missouri.  The Distinguished Service Award goes to a person who has done exceptional work in the field of education and has been a vocal supporter of public education.

    In a letter of nomination, Past-MOSPRA President, Nicole Kirby, said, “Ken cares about public education. He is vocal in his support of work done on behalf of children. He puts his heart and soul into helping schools succeed, and because of this, many school districts in Missouri and beyond are better able to do their jobs.”

    Susan Downing, Director of Communications for the Ladue School District wrote in her nomination letter, “You can trust that any advice Ken gives will be without guile, and straight from the heart. You can also trust Ken to shoot straight, even when he’s talking to your Board of Education, remaining firm in his position, while also making those around him feel valued.”

    Mr. DeSieghardt is the CEO of Patron Insight, a company dedicated to helping its clients with strategic planning and communications.

    The Missouri School Public Relations Association (MOSPRA) is the Missouri state chapter of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA). While the membership in MOSPRA is primarily composed of school communication practitioners from both public and private school districts, members also include superintendents, principals, secretaries, education association staff, board of education members and others who work to gain public confidence in education. Like its parent organization, MOSPRA is dedicated to providing citizens with a better understanding of the objectives, accomplishments and needs of the schools within our communities.

  • Overcome Election Night Frustration

    It’s a shock, when a ballot proposal fails on Election Night, whether the margin was one vote or in the thousands.

    Your search for answers of what went wrong begins immediately. The results of that search are often incomplete because they must pass through the filter of disappointment.

    Here is what we have learned from conducting follow-up studies for districts that had a rough night at the ballot box:

    Quick “repeats” are rarely successful: Assuming it was a failure of message, effort or timing, school districts might simply rerun the proposal at the next election opportunity. History shows your chances of being successful are slim, and you create animosity with your patrons who think they already gave you an answer on your proposal.

    Acknowledging the loss is critical: Districts that step forward promptly and say, “We will be taking time to understand how our patrons want us to proceed” are setting the right tone. This lets the naysayers hear their “message” was received, while keeping it positive for supporters and those who were apathetic.

    Overwhelm your patrons and staff with fact-finding efforts: Talk openly about the options that are in front of you and the kinds of conversations that are taking place, as you plan your next steps.

    Simplify and personalize your messages: Once you settle on your follow-up ballot proposal, create messages that are simple and benefit-driven. Leave the exhaustive details for your website, and keep the more broadly used messages focused on key points: What’s in the proposal? What will it cost me? Why should I vote for it?

    Be honest, but avoid scare tactics: If your original proposal was driven by need, then the need is likely to be even more acute, when your follow-up proposal is placed on the ballot. However, resist the temptation to put out messages that threaten voters with dire consequences, if the proposal fails.

    Respond to organized opposition with facts: If your opposition starts putting up their own yard signs and websites, don’t let them get under your skin. Rather, correct their misinformation with simple statements that begin with, “Actually, the fact is…”

    If your district has experienced a recent loss at the ballot box, let us help!

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