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A360™ & the Census: Using Dynamic Data to Reach Hard-to-Count Segments

When ABI took on the challenge of reaching hard-to-count (HTC) populations for the 2020 U.S. Census for Dallas County, we knew we needed to take our trademark Audience 360° (A360™) approach to connecting with segmented audiences.

We started by conducting thorough research on each of the HTC segments, which included families with children 0 to 5 years of age, Hispanics, African-Americans, and undocumented or recent immigrants. That research included compiling demographic data, and running surveys and focus groups.

This research has directly informed our messaging strategy. Our diverse staff collaboratively pored over the messaging matrix we developed in order to identify any potential points of cultural sensitivity as well as opportunities for clearer and more relevant communications.

Fortunately, the makeup of our organization and the team we assembled to conduct census marketing is intentionally diverse because we want authentic communication and relationships with each segment of the audience and the influencers they trust.

“The diverse makeup of our team has been developed with deliberate care,” said Sophia Johnson, ABI president. “It’s one of the things that makes ABI who it is and gives us a distinct advantage over more homogenous organizations.”

Our census marketing strategy is also built on connecting with community leaders and influencers from various demographics and leveraging their credibility to get the census message out. People listen to who they trust. We’re fortunate to have a team that is comprised of firms that have connections to these diverse communities.

ABI is educating residents about the importance of census participation. The census count is the most comprehensive data set in the country for decisions and funding. So much of our life is affected by funding from the federal government – from financial support programs like Medicare and SNAP to roads and infrastructure, from schools to senior services and other social programs. It’s a long list. Another benefit of obtaining a full census count is its potentially positive effect on critical business expansion decisions.

We are not just targeting the HTC sub-segments though. Our messaging strategy is part of a holistic campaign. And we are careful to ensure that the broader campaign still speaks to our critical HTC segments while alienating no one. We want anyone in Dallas County to find something in our content that resonates with them and their community.

Census participation progress is updated daily, and we can monitor which geographic areas have low response rates. This allows us to concentrate our efforts more effectively in the areas that need it. For areas where we need better response rates, we’ve activated Dallas ISD and implemented phone banks. And as we do with all campaigns, we analyze how each of these tactics is moving the needle in terms of audience participation.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and shelter-in-place orders have had a large impact on our campaign, but ABI has anticipated much of that and developed new strategies and refined others to stay as effective as possible. We’ve certainly increased our spend on digital strategies. Our approach is still to meet people where they are. If our audience is on Facebook, Instagram, shopping on websites or checking their email, they’re going to see messages and ads from us.

We also have a significant number of people who don’t have access to the internet, especially some of our HTC segments, so we’re using grassroots methods like meeting people in the Dallas ISD food distribution line and greeting people as they walk into Lowe’s Home Improvement stores. We hand out hand sanitizer, gifts for kids and flyers about the census. And we’re communicating to them the huge communal benefits of census participation.

Thanks to ABI’s A360 approach, we’re connecting to HTC audiences throughout Dallas County where they’re at with relevant messaging that resonates – driving up census participation – in spite of the pandemic.


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