5 Tips to easily take advantage of national observances to promote defined benefits
For example, Aug. 21 is National Senior Citizens Day, an observance created to show appreciation to our senior citizens and to recognize their achievements. State demographics indicate that persons age 65 and older made up 3.1 million of the state's population in 2014, the most recent census data provided by the Texas Demographic Center. Also, consider that many of the state's older residents are retired police officers, firefighters, teachers and other public servants who have dedicated their careers to working for their fellow Texans.
This observance could allow your fund the chance to advocate for defined benefits through your system's various online social media channels, such as Twitter and Facebook.
Here's how your fund can use this observance and others to your advantage:
Plan Ahead. Take time to search out the state's and nation's various observances and holidays. Knowing in advance what is out there gives you time to establish research and initiatives to promote.
A good source is NationalDayCalendar.com. In addition to listing the multitude of observances held across the United States, the site offers historical background on each date's designation.
Consider all Observances: Even obscure observances can gain your fund attention. May 4 is often referred to as Star Wars Day (May the Fourth be with you – get it?). Each year, the topic trends on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. The hashtag #MayThe4th and #StarWars were used to help audiences track the observance on their social media platforms. Think of hashtags as labels that help organize topics on social media channels.
TEXPERS took the opportunity to create a Facebook post encouraging people who saw posts featuring the hashtags to ask their state legislators to support defined benefits for firefighters, police, and city employees.
Screenshot of TEXPERS Facebook post related to the national observance of Star Wars Day.
TEXPERS also took advantage of Mother's Day and International Firefighters Day by posting a brief statistic and pleas for support. For example, for Mother's Day, TEXPERS wrote, “There were an estimated 252,000 firefighters working in the U.S. in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Women, many of them mothers, made up 3.5 percent of the total workforce for the occupation, not counting those in leadership roles. Like their male counterparts, female firefighters spend time away from their families and children working to save lives and property. The least we can do is protect their retirement pensions. Tell your legislators to support defined benefit plans for all public employees.” The hashtags #TxLege, #Pensions, #MothersDay #Firefighters and #Retirement were used to help get the message in front of social media users that may track those topics.
Screenshot of TEXPERS Facebook post observing Mother's Day while advocating for defined benefits.
You don't have to create a graphic if you don't have the skills. Just type up a message and include the appropriate hashtags for the observance and the audience you want to grab the attention of. You could take a photo of a system member on the job to post with your fund's message. Or, use sites such as Canva.com to create more graphic oriented posts quickly. The site's basic features are free to use.
Tie Messages to Defined Benefits: Advocate for your system members and retirees by helping your community understand how defined benefits work and why the retirement plan is essential to maintain. For example, when state and local governments fail to provide promised funding and try to dismantle defined-benefit pensions by switching to 401(k)-like retirement programs, they fail to recognize the work these public servants provided, often at much lower wages than their private-sector cohorts. Visit sites such as TEXPERS.org for statistics and data that support your fund's message.
Put Your All Into the Campaign: Spend a little time on crafting your message to the holiday or observance. Also, get more than one person involved in helping to promote the advocacy campaign. Fund executives, board members, and system members all can participate in some way, whether that is sharing social media posts on their personal Twitter and Facebook pages, asking their family and friends to write letters, or personally speaking with their elected officials regarding the campaign.
Include the Message Everywhere: Don't just use one mode of advocacy to promote the campaign. Consider posting the message to your email signatures and writing a note about the observance to your system's website. Also, consider having community supporters, such as local businesses, include information on their own communications materials such as emails and websites.
Using these tips, your fund can easily find unique ways to take advantage of observances and holidays to advocate for defined benefits.
Author Bio: Allen Jones is the communications and public relations manager for TEXPERS. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and communications. He is a former community journalist and editor. He previously worked for the Houston Community Newspapers group, international community lifestyle magazine publisher Hibu, and was a freelance writer for the Houston Chronicle.