Communications Task Force: February 2022


Commissioners: Chair Zakk Maher, Julia Fiori, Jessica Nixon, John Portela
Staff: Bryan Roche

The Communications Task Force met electronically for its monthly meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022 and discussed the following:

Welcome and check-in

Meeting times:

With previously reported scheduling conflicts no longer a factor, the group agreed to a standing meeting time of the second Tuesday of each month from 3 - 4 p.m.

Monthly report

Maher invited Roche to report on communications activities from the month of January. Roche highlighted the following from the report:

  • Participation in 2022 Maine Association of Broadcasters (MAB) Public Education Program (PEP); receiving final report for 2021: It was recently announced that Suzanne Goucher, the long-time executive director of MAB, passed away unexpectedly. Roche spoke with a contact who also participates in the PEP program, who shared it is going to take some time for things to stabilize. While there is not yet much clarity on how to get the final 2021 report and match values, there may be an opportunity to still earn match by working with broadcast companies directly. Other solutions include a more longer-term digital-first strategy or adjusting the schedule of broadcast vs. digital ads to fill the gaps. Digital ads do not earn match like broadcast ads, but could provide a wider reach.

The entire report be can be accessed by using the following link -- access monthly report.

Communications plan impacts

Building off the last discussion item, Maher asked Roche about the timeline of the communications plan. Roche stated that it is likely the timing of certain initiatives could shift. Roche also stated that he should have some more clarity next week once work concludes on the annual report. 

On the topic of the communications plan, Roche highlighted another example of cross-commission collaboration as he shared the Volunteer Maine plan with the Missouri Commission to help guide their efforts.

Maher concluded the discussion on the plan with a final question regarding the "our impact" infographic of the website, wondering if the planned update would feature data from the 2021 calendar year. Roche confirmed yes.

Policy updates

Maher briefed the group on a proposal regarding the Task Force's role that came from the latest Executive Committee meeting. The change would be an increased focus on policy and legislative advocacy, and Maher wanted to get input from the group before deciding.

  • Maher informed the group that several upcoming proposed bills could impact the Commission. He will send more details to the group.
  • Nixon cited her role in the Department of Education and the need to be neutral, and added it all would depend on specific goals. If the policy/advocacy involvement would be an "aggressive" collaboration, the she would probably not be in favor. Nixon added if it's more along the lines of stepping up and pitching in more, than she would be willing.
  • Portela asked if the advocacy would be more direct, face-to-face. Maher replied that it would be more along the lines of last-step, on-demand assistance. Maher, citing an example from the previous week, stated he could not help due to other commitments. 
  • Maher shared an alternative could be an ad-hoc committee of Commissioners from multiple Task Forces to handle the added policy/advocacy work for some of the upcoming legislative items.
  • Maher stated that given the group and the role of the Task Force, as constituted, Communications may not be able to lead these efforts. Maher added that the Task Force has a marketing plan and a process to work through ideas, but "drop-of-the-hat" advocacy does not allow for a timeframe or planning process.
  • Maher then moved the discussion to comfort level, sharing his belief that those involved more closely to the legislative process, such as the Executive Committee, would be better equipped to handle this work. He stated that he does not feel comfortable with the Task Force dealing with emergencies that are not emergencies associated with the current role of the Task Force. Otherwise the group would have to wait on talking points and advocate on-demand.
  • Fiori added that it does feel like the Communications Task Force would be stuck in the middle. This type of advocacy has not typically been a focus of the group and shared concerns around success. 
  • Portela stated for this Task Force to be involved, specific goals and actions need to be considered, such as political and financial ramifications. He added his feeling that Executive Committee and those involved with the finer details of the legislative proposals need to identify priorities and then communicate. He concluded by stating that he feels the Communications Task Force should not be the ones taking the lead, but more support in these efforts.
  • Maher added by communicating a desire for structure if the Task Force was to take up such work, adding that he does not want the group to be a "rapid response" Task Force. He added that urgencies can throw off pre-determined schedules and plans, especially around the marketing and communications pieces. He concluded by stating that good, stable policy-driven decisions should not be made with rapid speed.

Editorial ideas/new content

Maher shifted the discussion to editorial ideas, specifically op-eds. Maher turned to Roche = to share any ideas related to upcoming events and/or goals. 

Roche stated that AmeriCorps recruitment is the most pressing issue from where he sits. Roche suggested utilizing a balance between research around generation z's desire to acquire new skills and continuing to utilize messaging around civic engagement and the desire to give back as a starting point. 

Maher liked the approach and stated other talking points such as remote service or local community volunteering as ones to consider.

Other discussion

Based off of the discussion around recruitment, the group wondered what outreach can be done to help set the expectations around the lack of affordable housing for members wanting to serve in Maine. Portela stated that there could be a lack of awareness around the issue. He cited a similar retention situation that a large employer on the Mid Coast is facing due to the housing and rental markets. He added that out of the box thinking should be considered, such as the possibility of community members supporting service by hosting an AmeriCorps member, which would allow other community members to be involved with service, but in an alternative manner. Maher stated that he liked the idea but a vetting process and other mandates would need to be considered.

Nixon added that it is always beneficial to state the problem and look at alternative solutions. One short-term idea is to produce housing one-pagers with information on housing resources and community groups that may be able to assist prospective members in the housing process. 

Next meeting

Tuesday, March. 8, 2022 from 3 - 4 p.m.