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“Wilmington W.I.N.s!” Strategic Communication Campaign Plan:
Adopting a Municipal Broadband Network in Wilmington, MA
Kyle Lunt Public Policy and Administration – 697SC Strategic Communications, Media Advocacy and Policy Change Joshua Stearns March 11, 2013
Spitfire Strategies Smart Chart 3.0
Step One: Program Decisions
Broad Goal: What do you want to achieve over the long term? To develop a municipally owned and operated fiber optic broadband network in the town of Wilmington, MA which will provide faster, more affordable, and more reliable service than the incumbent broadband providers to both the 7000+ households and 2300+ businesses in town, making it a better place for families, schools, and businesses to grow and thrive. Objective: What's the first measurable step you need to accomplish within the next 12 months to move toward your goal? By the 2014 Wilmington town meeting in April, submit a detailed argument and cost/benefit analysis for establishing a community owned broadband network for the Wilmington area, in the form of a written motion, to the town Finance Committee to be reviewed and considered at the town meeting. Gain 300 or more supporters of the campaign within the town that will show up to the town meeting and vote to approve the motion so that it will receive a winning two-thirds majority vote. (Only 150 people are required at the town meeting for the meeting to proceed and, in most years, about that many show up.) Decision Maker: Who can make your objective a reality by taking a specific action or changing a specific behavior? The residents of Wilmington. They can approve this motion to invest town money in a community broadband network by voting in favor of it by a 2-to-1 margin at the annual town meeting which is open to all residents. The nine unpaid residents appointed to the town's Finance Committee (selected by the town Moderator, Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, and Chairman of the last Finance Committee) will also be required to give their opinion and analysis of the motion prior to the vote, so this is also a very influential group that might affect the decision of the townspeople.
Step Two: Context
Internal Scan: What are your organizations's assets and challenges that may impact your outreach strategy? This communication campaign is a grassroots campaign. So to begin, we would have only a small, knowledgeable group of people already dedicated to achieving the extraordinary benefits that a municipally owned fiber network would bring Wilmington--we can call this group the Wilmington Innovation Network (WIN). We would initially be made up of a small group of activists that were Wilmington residents and/or relative experts of broadband technology and community benefits. Our initial resources would consist of our media communication, organizing, and broadband expertise as well as a very small amount of capital invested by the members of this group. Having myself and other members of the initiative as native Wilmingtonians would also increase the level of trust and boost our reputation within the community. Relationships that I and others have created over the years of living and growing up in town could also be leveraged to expand our grassroots support. External Scan: What is already happening outside your organization that may impact your strategy – both assets and challenges? The present state of the debate on this issue on the national level is very much ongoing. I would argue that the movement to more and more communities creating fiber networks is still in its very early stages. Solutions such as municipal networks to achieve affordable and universal access to broadband are part of a major policy issue within intelligent circles that contain telecommunications interest groups, however, compared to many political issues such as gun control, birth control, and health care, this is relatively low on the totem pole. Part of the reason for this is because the development of high speed fiber-to-the-home networks is a relatively new phenomenon in itself. Additionally, as a country, we are in an interesting transition phase where we are starting to realize how the internet has come to play a crucial role in our daily lives and as citizens to the point where internet access should be considered a utility and a basic American right rather than a commodity to be enjoyed by the affluent, and therefore we are now starting come up with ways to operationalize and ensure that this happens, which differs from our traditional experience up until now where it has always been accepted that everyone should purchase internet access from a large corporate provider. Municipal broadband networks are one of the best ideas out there right now to ensure fast, reliable, competitively priced internet access, but because we still in this transition phase of internet access moving from a commodity to a necessity, many people are not yet aware of the debate that is raging between public interest groups and giant ISPs like Comcast and Verizon, although many residents are quite familiar and agitated with the slow, unreliable, and unresponsive service that they are getting from these providers. That is why this campaign is primarily an information campaign to show the residents of Wilmington that there is a better option out there for internet access: one that your own town can manage that will potentially save you money and bring prosperity to Wilmington. On the community level, internet issues are not largely discussed yet, as the primary concerns brought to Wilmington town meetings tend to revolve around its schools, library, veterans affairs, construction, local business, and other minor budgetary and
logistical matters. Therefore a critical part of this education campaign should be targeted at making the connections between the benefits of municipal broadband and the issues closest to Wilmington's heart--by fitting our story into the stories that the proud residents of Wilmington care most about. There is also a large amount of empirical evidence to use out there about success stories for communities that have decided to create municipally owned fiber networks (130+ nationwide) such as Chattanooga, Tennessee; Longmont, Colorado; and Leverett, Massachusetts. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance's website, freepress.net, and muninetworks.org are all incredible resources for success stories, facts, costs & benefits, and easily understandable informational videos about the benefits of municipal broadband. It is also likely that once these organizations caught wind of or were contacted about Wilmington's efforts (especially due to my personal connections to Free Press), that we could establish relationships with them as well and they could potentially use our story to engage and inform thousands of their activists nationally, continuing to grow the support of WIN. Blogs and outreaches from these organizations have the potential to reach very large audiences and are great potential resources. Additionally, we'd have the guidance and support of tried and true experts in the municipal broadband struggle such as Broadband Services Manager at Longmont Power & Communications, Vince Jordan, who won the multi-year battle against Comcast to overturn a law in Longmont that prevented the town from turning on the fiber network it had already built and whom I worked with last summer to organize a Colorado in-district meeting. Additionally, Christopher Mitchell, the Director for the Telecommunications as Commons Initiative who has been traveling the country to speak about the correlation between community broadband and economic development could be a potentially valuable asset that we could reach out to via per-established connections at organizations like Free Press. Again, national organizations such as Free Press, the Telecommunications as Commons Initiative, and the Institute for Local SelfReliance are assets that we have on our side. Local community organizations and nonprofits are groups that we hope to have on our side and will develop relationships with by holding private meetings, attending their monthly or seasonal gatherings, and using our local relationships as much as possible. Further external resources include WCTV, Wilmington's community owned television station which is open to the public and could be used to relay informational video content to many people in town, in addition to the abundance of nonprofit organizations available for us to meet and partner with in Wilmington about this initiative, which have a solid and loyal base of Wilmington residents as members that they could in-turn reach out to on our behalf. A goal would be to meet and establish relationships with as many influential Wilmington groups and nonprofits as possible in order to grow WIN support and build our local base through the loyal members of each organization for when it comes time for the town to vote. Additional potential assets include grants that can be applied for, similar to the $40,000 grant Leverett got for its FTTH network from the Massachusetts Broadband Institute. Timing is only a constraint to the point that we need to have at least a few hundred definite supporters of WIN's fight for more innovation through a publicly owned network by the 2014 town meeting in April in order to maximize our chances of capturing a twothirds majority vote. Working against us, we have the incumbent internet service providers in town. The two major ones are Comcast and Verizon, both of which have offices located in Wilmington's industrial parks. These companies have been in town for a long time and despite their less-than-impressive service, may have established some hard-to-break connections, and certainly provide access to a large proportion of Wilmington's population. For example, the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce is one group that WIN hopes to ally with, garnering the support of over 150 local business owners and civic leaders, however the Chamber's very own email address is an @verizon.net address! These large ISPs are likely to organize community members of their own to vote at the down meeting against the municipal network by using unsupported arguments that it would hurt jobs in town and cost taxpayers too much money, when in fact it is quite likely that the fast, cheaper internet speeds would make Wilmington a hotbed for innovative business, boosting the economy, and at the same time saving them more money from reduced service fees than what they would lose from the tax increase involved with building the infrastructure for fiber. Most Wilmington Town Meetings struggle to get the required 150 residents in attendance, but if the incumbent providers successfully convinced a large group to show up in opposition, we might have to unexpectedly raise our goal of 300 supporters to double whatever number of residents they are able to organize. There are also additional ISPs that serve the town including Exede Satellite Internet, Lighthouse Cable Internet, and Broadband Blue Wireless 4G Internet. It is unclear at this point whether these smaller providers would take a strong opposing stance since the added competition of a municipal network would likely bring down the prices of Comcast and Verizon, but it might also take customers away from their own companies. An argument can be made that local providers would endure minimal negative effects since community fiber speeds tend not to go below 50mbps which is offered in Chattanooga at $58 per month--not threatening the market for slower, less expensive speeds that a company like Lighthouse Offers: 20mbps for $30 per month in areas where that is all people want or can afford. Define Your Position: Do you need a plan that will frame, fortify and amplify or reframe the debate? Just note which position you're in here – you can figure out the details later. WIN's position in the debate is somewhere between Position 1: Framing and Position 2: Fortifying and amplifying. I would say that on the national level and in certain parts of the country, the debate about municipally owned broadband networks has already been set in motion. There are areas where towns are winning this battle and developing new infrastructure, and there are also states and towns where incumbent ISPs have been able to influence local and state governments to pass law that prevent, or otherwise make it extremely difficult for municipalities to build or use their own networks.
We can use the growing number of success stories to amplify the positive message of bringing Muni Broadband to Wilmington. On the other hand, it is important to keep our audience in perspective, and I think that if we were to send out a survey to the residents of Wilmington simply asking if they support a municipally owned network--especially if we include the fact that taxes might increase because of it--we wouldn't fare very well because most people in the audience of the town wouldn't be familiar with what a municipally owned broadband network is, and certainly not why it is worth their tax dollars. Therefore, it is of crucial importance that we explain and frame the issue of municipal broadband in Wilmington around the ideals of a more advanced learning environment in our public schools, economic improvement, and more effective emergency services, as well as the overall savings a family can expect after money saved on service fees by switching away from incumbents.
Step Three: Strategic Choices
Audience Target: Who must you reach to achieve your objective? The target audience and the decision makers in this case are both voting age Wilmington residents (18+). We need to persuade this group that creating a muni broadband system is a worthwhile investment from the taxpayer's perspective. In order to reach as many Wilmington residents as effectively as possible, we are going to target both the community television station, WCTV, as well as leaders within influential groups and organizations within the town. At WCTV, we can book time to create programing about the benefits of bringing community broadband to Wilmington, and air this programming on all three of WCTV's Public, Educational, and Government access channels By targeting and holding personal meeting and information sessions with various influential groups around town, we hope to deepen our connection to the town's people through the other organizations they trust. Examples of who WIN should meet and attempt to partner with are: the Wilmington Knights of Columbus where we can ask to have something written in their quarterly distributed newsletter known as the "Anchor"; a writer from the "Town Crier," Wilmington's newspaper in order to publish a story; Joanne Benton, Superintendent of Wilmington Public Schools, to convince her of the incredible benefits that the new network can bring her students who are conveniently going to be moving into a brand new high school in the next couple years and so we can get permission to have fliers and other information circulated on bulletin boards and to individual students and teachers; the board of the Chamber of Commerce to convince them of the benefits a new network will bring local business and how we can partner with them to try to ensure that every new company that comes to Wilmington because of its leadership as a high speed community, joins the Chamber as a member; leaders within Friends of Wilmington Memorial Library, which is an influential group within the town regarding ideas for town improvement using limited funds; and the Wilmington Education Foundation which states one of its goals as technological advances in Wilmington schools and has raised over $150,000 over the years to purchase laptops for the high school, 3 smart boards, and a host of other investments. Lastly, if possible, we would like to target the nine members of the town's finance committee in our outreach efforts since they are required to give their own group assessment of any motion regarding the appropriation of monies for expenses of the town prior to open voting. Readiness: Is your audience in Stage 1, Stage 2 or Stage 3? The voters are currently in Stage 1: Sharing Knowledge. Assuming we can partner with a number of local organizations after our meetings, the literature and articles we have them distribute to their members, as well as the educational programing we create using the resources of WCTV will focus on creating a personal connection between them and a municipal broadband in Wilmington, and then communicate that they can be the heroes who reduce internet bills, bring improved education, heightened quality of life, and economic prosperity to the great town they call home and all they've got to do to make this a reality is show up at the high school on one day in April to cast an affirmative vote. Core Concerns: What existing value can you tap into to engage and resonate with your target audience(s)? What existing belief might be a barrier you have to overcome? The existing values of Wilmington residents will have to be where the real connection is made in this campaign. I will use my background as a Wilmington resident to connect with residents on a personal level and let them know that I share the same concerns they do. Wilmington is known to be a very tight knit and prideful town. We love our sports teams and schools more than anything and our large industrial parks on the fringes of the town bring in lots of business that allows us to keep our residential taxes low. Because of Wilmington's town pride, I think the argument that a municipally run network would allow the town to operate more independently and be accountable to its own interests rather than those of corporations would resonate quite effectively. Wilmington actually just recently voted to have the present high school demolished and have a completely new one put up in its place with all new athletic fields as well. Our WIN campaign should piggyback on this recent development and communicate how this is the perfect opportunity to integrate a fiber optic network into our town so that the new school can operate at peak performance. Additionally, while residents may not be overly familiar with what a municipal broadband network is, they will certainly be responsive
to triggers about their current internet service being questionable in terms of speed, quality, and customer service. Eliminating these common problems should also be a key value to connect with. In terms of barriers, the same Wilmington pride argument might be used by the incumbent service providers who will claim to have offered reliable service for years and years and become a staple business in the community. Another value of Wilmington residents is also keeping their property taxes down--this is a key attraction of Wilmington compared to surrounding towns, so although the tax increases would likely be temporary to cover the initial infrastructure costs (in Leverett it's planned for $300 annually for citizens over 20 years) and there is a strong argument that residents might actually save money annually after reduced service bills, there is still a really difficult stigma to overcome in regards to increased taxes, so we'll have to be careful with our messaging around that. Theme: What is the best theme to use to reach your audience(s)? The theme of our messaging is going to be: "Wilmington WINs!" This is what's going to take Wilmington to the next level! A municipal broadband network will bring incredible innovation, get Wilmington back on track as one of the smartest school systems in the Commonwealth, increase town cohesion, put us on the map, and save us all money! Wilmington is an incredibly competitive town and lives for its recreational and high school sports. Having the theme be "Wilmington WINs!" (Wilmington Innovation Network) will really resonate with its residents. "Wilmington business WINs!" "Wilmington Schools WIN!" "Show up in April at the annual town meeting and make sure Wilmington WINs!" Message: What key points do you want to make with your target audience(s)? Make sure to list all four points ( tap value, overcome the barrier, ask, echo vision) for each audience. Wilmington WINs! Wilmington Business WINs with faster internet speeds that allow companies to compete at a higher level. Wilmington WINs when innovative, technology based businesses move here and create jobs because of it's impressive fiber network that outperforms surrounding towns' connection speeds by 100 times or 10,000 percent! Wilmington WINs when its schools can run the most advanced technology available on it's fiber optic network. Wilmington WINs when its emergency services can use the town's super-fast network to respond more quickly and effectively and save more lives. Wilmington WINs when our internet and cable bills go down! Wilmington WINs when our money stays within our own community! Wilmington WINs when it is accountable to the needs of its people! (as opposed to the profit of one or two private ISPs) Wilmington WINs when we invest in our future! Wilmington WINs with community broadband!
This thematic messaging tactic should overcome the barriers that increased taxes and organizing by incumbent ISPs within the town present. The ask would be to help Wilmington WIN by taking/buying a "Wilmington WINs!" bumper sticker (with the date of the annual meeting on it) to spread the word, but most importantly to show up at the annual town meeting and vote yes on the Wilmington WINs motion to fund a municipal broadband network. Messengers: Who will best connect with your audience(s)? The main messengers will be me and the other key members who help to start the Wilmington Innovation Network. The trustworthiness of having a "person like me" who is also from the same humble roots as the people we are trying to persuade is a big benefit. Key members of our team would have to work to schedule meetings with the aforementioned local organizations and decide amongst each other which member is best suited for each meeting based on our prior relationships ans connections within town. Additionally, if all goes as planned and we get support from the superintendent and groups such as the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, the short ads and/or programs that we produce through WCTV can feature key supporters from around town such as a group of teachers and students, teammates from the football team, or some well-known local business-owners all standing together at the end of the educational portion of the video (which would contain similar content as that featured on muninetworks.org), cheering "Wilmington WINs!"
As far as our meetings with leaders of community groups and organizations, once we've gained their support and they've agreed to distribute some of our educational materials to their members, they become a very effective and trustworthy secondary messaging mechanism.
Step Four: Communications Activities
Tactics: What activities will you use to deliver your message(s)? As mentioned prior, communication tactics will include advertising and programing on WCTV containing informational video content about all the benefits of municipal broadband networks such as those found on muninetworks.org.content.videos and accompanied by members of the community such as teachers, athletes, business owners, or public safety officials cheering that "Wilmington WINs when...." WIN will also host its own website where people can donate, ask questions, get information about the benefits of muni broadband in Wilmington, and see educational videos if they missed them on WCTV. Additionally meetings will be held with key organization leaders in town within organizations including but not limited to: Knights of Columbus Wilmington Educational Foundation Shriner's of Wilmington Wilmington Chamber of Commerce Superintendent of Wilmington Public Schools Joanne Benton Friends of Wilmington Memorial Library Wilmington Town Crier These meetings involve meeting with organization leaders, but also with their members when possible. For example, Friends of WML holds monthly public meetings that WIN can join and be use to spread the work about our campaign. Literature and other explanatory materials will be distributed to these organizations and subsequently their loyal members, including students and teachers if we receive approval from Ms. Benton. In addition, groups that publish articles or newsletters can potentially write a story publicizing our efforts in town such as the Town Crier or the Knights of Columbus newsletter. To help the Wilmington WINs campaign spread and gain traction, we will distribute "Wilmington WINs!" bumper stickers that have a special design including the date to show up and vote in favor on municipal broadband at the town meeting, so that it becomes something that is seen all over town. Lastly, WIN can use any positive material such as blogs, outreaches, etc that it is able to receive from it's bigger cousin interest groups like Free Press, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, the Telecommunications as Commons Initiative, and other related organizations it can get its hands on. A thorough muni broadband cost-benefit analysis will then be submitted to the town Finance Committee in advance of the town meeting in 2014 so that they have time to consider its measures. Timeline: When will you implement each of your tactics? Since the annual town meeting is only about a year away, we should start meeting with local organizations and groups right away to establish relationships. The same goes for the national interest groups that have the potential to increase out outreach resources. The next step would be to provide leaders of those organizations that decided to support us with all the educational paper materials that we would like them to distribute. As this information gains traction, we will distribute the Wilmington WINs! Stickers that will hopefully cover the town. At this point we should have developed our advertising and educational spots to be aired on WCTV and gained enough support to get some influential residents to be on camera. We can also post these videos to our own website and begin mailing out brochures to all residents letting them know (if they already don't) to come vote yes in April. By this point, we should have gathered more than enough supporters to show up at the town meeting in April and pass a motion for a municipal fiber network. The major thing to do at this point is to submit our proposal a few weeks in advance of the meeting to the town Finance Committee, made up on 9 unpaid residents and selected by town officials, so that it can be voted on. The motion to appropriate fund into the development of a municipal broadband network passes and the Biddie process to
decide who will build the infrastructure begins. Assignments: Who will implement each activity? I and my team members will meet with local organizations and develop relationships. Leaders of those organizations will facilitate meetings and/or presentations between us and their members or at least distribute out educational materials to them. A local print shop in Wilmington will use some of our limited funds to print educational and slogan materials such as brochures and a sticker that will hopefully cover the town. I and the team members will write up the content for what will be aired on WCTV and recruit talent from supporters of our initiative around town. WCTV will air our promotional and educational content to the town I and the team will create a basic website where people can go to ask questions, donate, get information about muni broadband benefits from Wilmington, and to watch any videos they didn't get to see on WCTV. The Town Crier and KofC will write stories about the WIN initiative in their press outlets. Supportive national organizations like Free Press and muninetworks.org will blog and write outreaches about Wilmington's battle for municipal broadband and work it into the national discussion. I and the team will draft up a cost-benefit analysis and proposal to submit to the Finance Committee in addition to leaving reminders at every home not to forget to come vote on Town Meeting day!
Budget: How much time and money will you spend on each tactic? Meeting with local organizations and creating relationships will be ongoing, but happen mostly in the first 2 months of what amounts to a one year campaign basically. A small amount of money, potentially around a few thousand dollars will be dedicated to print materials. At least 3 or 4 weeks of booked time at the WCTV station will be needed to create and film the appropriate content, but the cost fro time and equipment should be free for Wilmington residents Continuous presentations and talks with local community groups will be an ongoing occurrence and there educational presentations about the benefits Wilmington might face (How they can WIN) should last about 30 minute to an hour each.
The website will take at least a few hours per day to maintain and require a small cost for domain name. The major cost of this campaign is time spent promoting and organizing around the tissue which will largely depend on the severity of the efforts of the opposition pushing back on the other end.
Step Five: Measurements of Success
Outputs: What will you produce to reach your objective? Print materials -- informative brochures and Wilmington WINs stickers! Advertisements and program content aired on WCTV News articles printed in local papers and newsletters Emails and outreaches send by friendly national advocacy organizations about our efforts and struggles in Wilmington Many meetings scheduled with community group leaders Many partnerships created with community groups Many scheduled talks with community groups and member organizations
Outcomes: What are the results of your outputs that demonstrate incremental progress toward your objective? Wilmington residents read the news articles Activists nationally see our ally's blogs and outreaches increasing the scope of our support Nonprofits and community organizations accept our proposed partnerships and invite us to present to their members or distribute our educational materials Residents watch our programming on WCTV and get inspired to come vote yes at the April Town Meeting. Residents all over town drive around with Wilmington WINs stickers on their cars and other People and organizations donate through our website to expand out funds "Wilmington WINs" gains tremendous support within the town and catches on like wildfire. People begin to associate good things about Wilmington with this slogan and in turn become inclined to support the Wilmington Innovation Network that created it. Lots of people (business owners, school officials and teachers, parents, emergency personnel, and others) show up to the 2014 annual Town Meeting and vote YES by a 2 to 1 margin to build a municipal broadband network!
Step Six: Final Reality Check
Test for accuracy: What additional steps do you need to take to ensure your strategy is solid? Potentially distribute a survey for town residents to gauge their initial interest in such a community decision.
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