A complete and accurate count of residents in the census is critical to Michigan and something the state has historically struggled with, often placing 17th or worse for reporting. The 2020 census posed many unique challenges: a deadly global pandemic, a changing timeline, a controversial political environment that raised accuracy concerns, the first online census response option and over 1.8 million hard-to-count residents. An in-depth, comprehensive, integrated marketing, advertising and communications campaign was needed to educate, elevate awareness, create urgency and improve upon Michigan's self-response rate of 67.7% in 2010.
It was imperative we develop a deep understanding of Michigan residents’ existing levels of awareness and understanding and potential barriers for completing the 2020 census. We completed a communications audit of ongoing work and an extensive analysis of media vehicles and media consumption habits. We also conducted nine focus groups, which helped identify, define and create a deep collective understanding of eight key hard-to-count segments. We ultimately created the “Be Counted” campaign, which included a series of multiple touch points with each key audience segment to guide them from awareness to action. Our paid media campaign was live from March until early October 2020. Paid media messaging focused on the simplicity of the questions (dispelling myths and concerns), ease of completion (by mail, phone, online) and Michigan-centric benefits to citizens. Three distinct phases of our paid media effort worked in tandem with earned media. A broad kickoff campaign created awareness and encouraged immediate completion of the census. This was followed by an audience-targeted campaign from April to June providing high-frequency messaging and including placements with trusted sources to reassure hard-to-count populations. Lastly, we used a census tract-targeted campaign from July to October in low-response areas with a focus on multifamily housing.
Meaningful, Measurable Results
Our efforts with the Michigan 2020 census paid off in many meaningful ways and we exceeded expectations. The state’s self-response rate rose significantly from the last census, bringing Michigan into eighth place for self-reporting.
Of all Michigan households were counted, according to the U.S. Census Bureau
Of Michigan households were confirmed to have self-responded to the 2020 census