Community Preservation Coalition
Faced with a dwindling trust fund, the Massachusetts Community Preservation Coalition (CPC) – which operates the state’s Community Preservation Act – was eager to highlight its program’s success in cities and towns across the Commonwealth. Getting positive recognition was an important piece of CPC’s strategy to press the state Legislature for an increase in funding for the program.
CPC tapped Ellis Strategies to run the statewide public relations effort, which had three important goals. First, to remind voters that since 2000, the Community Preservation Act had helped pay for renovations to historic buildings, preservation of open space and the development of affordable housing. Second, to remind lawmakers of the benefits the program brought to their constituents, so they would vote to support CPC’s funding. Third, to secure the support of an influential voice that could help sway unsupportive lawmakers.
Working with the CPC, we identified champions for the program in communities represented by key lawmakers. Then we worked with them to draft opinion articles that we submitted for publication in hometown newspapers. Opinion articles, or Op-Eds as we call them, are often noticed by engaged voters and by the representatives they elect. From the South Shore to the North Shore to the Berkshires, newspapers carried the op-ed.
Next, we reached out to State House News Service (SNS), which is widely read by legislators and their staffs. Our press release informed them that communities would be receiving smaller matching grants because of the dwindling CPC trust fund. It also reminded the news service that Gov. Charlie Baker had publicly indicated his support for additional funding. As we anticipated, the press release caught the attention of an SNS reporter who developed a story that generated coverage in newspapers, on TV and on radio stations across the state.
Finally, we drafted high-level memo for The Boston Globe’s Editorial Board to convince editors that the paper should write an editorial supporting the CPC’s push for more funding. The Globe agreed the issue was worthy of the paper’s influential support. Its editorial said, “The Community Preservation Act is so popular for a simple reason: It works, and taxpayers who vote for it can see tangible results in their parks and neighborhoods.”
In the end, lawmakers voted to increase the fee supporting the Community Preservation Act and provide additional funding from the state’s budget surplus. Their action was viewed as a direct result of the positive attention we helped generate for the CPC.