State Policy Network
The 2021 Communications Excellence Awards recognize innovative radio campaign, powerful school choice stories, and bipartisan effort to curb executive overreach

The polls are closed, and the votes are in. State Policy Network is pleased to announce Center of the American Experiment, Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy, and Commonwealth Foundation are the 2021 SPN Communications Excellence Awards winners.

The SPN Communications Excellence Awards recognize and encourage outstanding achievements in marketing, communications, and media across the state think tank Network. Winners received a grant to pursue future projects, as well as a trophy to honor their effort and results.

The three winners accepted their award at State Policy Network’s 29th Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida. Take a look below at their exceptional marketing campaigns, which gave a voice to the people of their states and drew awareness to the solutions that would best serve local communities.

2021 Bold Brand Boost Award: Center of the American Experiment reaches thousands of Minnesotans through innovative radio campaign

The Center of the American Experiment’s Think About It campaign is an ongoing series of radio ads that all begin with the phrase “Think about it” and then raise questions about current public policy topics. For example: Think about it: Black and Hispanic students in Mississippi perform better in reading and math than black and Hispanic students in Minnesota…Think about it: In just 10 years, the Minnesota state budget grew from 14 billion dollars to 26 billion dollars… The campaign started with five different ads that rotated during Minnesota’s 2021 legislative session. Three of the radio ads promoted a website that featured a specific call to action, applying pressure on legislators and/or signing a petition. The radio ads that included calls to action contributed to thousands of emails sent to state lawmakers, including 834 emails sent to each member of a conference committee as they were deliberating Green New Deal provisions (which were eventually dropped). These ads were heard millions of times by hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans—helping American Experiment build its brand in the Gopher State.

Read more about American Experiment’s Think About It campaign here.

2021 Powerful Storytelling Award: Cardinal Institute shares powerful education stories to help pass the most expansive school choice program in the country

With powerful storytelling, the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy was able to bring education opportunity to 300,000 children in the Mountain State. The Institute collected stories from across the state to highlight the diversity in education needs, and to show the value that programs like Education Savings Accounts (in the form of the Hope Scholarship) could bring to people’s lives. Cardinal also worked with teachers to help shift the narrative that school choice reforms are somehow “anti-teacher,” which helped them gain new allies in their push to improve the state’s education offerings. Through their efforts to share the stories of parents, teachers, and students, the Institute secured a massive win for education freedom. West Virginia passed the Hope Scholarship in March 2021. This program is the nation’s most inclusive education savings account program—accessible to more than 90 percent of the state’s students.

Learn more about how the Cardinal Institute brought education freedom to West Virginia here.

2021 Expanding Your Audience Award: Commonwealth Foundation reaches across the aisle to curb Pennsylvania Governor’s executive overreach

The Pennsylvania Governor renewed his coronavirus disaster declaration five times since March 2020, enabling his unprecedented shutdown of the economy. Although voters across the political spectrum were willing to give the governor the benefit of the doubt at first, the governor’s abuse of power over the past year opened opportunities for the Commonwealth Foundation to build a diverse, bipartisan coalition in opposition to his harmful executive actions. As a result, Pennsylvanians approved two ballot initiatives that restored the balance of power between the governor and the Legislature during disaster emergencies. To win this campaign, Commonwealth had to appeal to and motivate right-of-center voters who were instinctively skeptical of the governor and his pandemic restrictions. But Commonwealth’s polling showed that these voters alone would not be enough to achieve victory. Commonwealth also had to move independent and left-of-center voters to vote yes on the ballot questions. Commonwealth worked tirelessly to expand their audience to reach Pennsylvanians across the political spectrum. By highlighting the governor’s violations of both liberty and equality, they were able to rally both left-leaning and right-leaning audiences, and eventually secure victory for both ballot initiatives.

Read more about how Commonwealth expanded their audience here.

About the SPN Communications Excellence Awards

This opportunity is open to current SPN state think tank affiliate members only. All affiliate members are invited to nominate their work in one or more categories. Category finalists are chosen by a selection committee, and the winners are determined by a public vote. Learn more about the awards here.

Organization: State Policy Network