Matt Jacob has worked with diverse stakeholders to advance their ideas, reframe issues and strengthen their impact. Here are six examples:
RAISING THE PROFILE OF AN OVERLOOKED ISSUE: In 2011, a researcher at the Pew Center on the State’s shared data with Matt showing that a surprising number of Americans were visiting hospital ERs for dental problems. Matt recommended that Pew release a report to shine a light on this issue. Initially reluctant, Pew officials released A Costly Dental Destination, a 2012 report that made national headlines. Within four days, the report generated over 22 million media impressions, eventually spurring stories on NPR, Fox News, CBS News, and PBS's Frontline program. And Time magazine published a key statistic from the Pew report. On Pew’s behalf, Matt worked with a TV producer to tee up a story that aired on ABC's World News Tonight.
GETTING MESSAGES TO A WIDER AUDIENCE: In 2014, Matt worked with officials at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), who wanted to increase orders of the Think Teeth posters and tear sheets that the agency had posted online. Matt’s approach began with interviews of key stakeholders. He sought their assessment of the collateral and how CMS’s website described it — what it made it sound appealing or not? Based on informants’ impressions and his own observations, Matt developed a comprehensive marketing and dissemination plan. CMS embraced nearly all of the strategies in his plan. Within a year, orders for the Think Teeth content jumped by 31%.
GIVING A SCHOOL BOARD BACK TO THE COMMUNITY: In the early 1990s, a group of fundamentalist Christians ran stealth campaigns to take control of the school board in Lake County, Fla. The policies they pursued created confusion and interfered with quality education. The fundamentalist majority even killed a plan to create a Head Start program in a low-income area. Parents and other residents launched People for Mainstream Values to challenge the board majority's divisive policies. Matt worked on-site with school teachers and this coalition, helping to coordinate messages and plan strategies. A Lake County teacher called Matt's communication materials "just what we've been missing." In the next election, voters defeated the incumbents, leaving the board in the hands of a responsible majority.
FRAMING AN ISSUE EFFECTIVELY: During the 1970s and '80s, progressives argued for universal health coverage by citing the millions who lacked insurance. Yet those Americans were already on their side; framing the issue this way missed an opportunity to appeal to middle-class families who worried about preexisting conditions or other reasons their coverage might not travel with them as they changed jobs or moved to another state. In 1993, Bill Clinton's White House used focus groups to test options for a slogan to advance his national health care plan — and the administration chose a message that Matt created: "Health care that's always there." It was a way to appeal to people who were insured yet feeling far from secure about their coverage. The New York Times called it "one of the best political slogans in years." Health care reform didn't prevail for many more years, but this slogan reminded advocates that they had to engage everyone, even those with health coverage.
SECURING AN EDITORIAL SHIFT: Matt worked with leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), who were concerned about how a steady wave of school closings were affecting students, parents and faculty. Up to this point, Arne Duncan, CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, had generally received positive coverage from the local news media. Matt advised, reviewed and edited a CTU report explaining why Duncan's newest plan to close or overhaul 19 schools was rash and unjustified. The report coincided with an editorial board meeting with the Chicago Sun-Times. Matt helped CTU's officers prepare for this meeting, which prompted the Sun-Times to write an editorial column that surprised many — calling Duncan's plan "far too ambitious and rushed for a fair vote . . . Delaying the vote a month won't hurt anyone and will, we hope, give [school officials] a better chance to get it right."
USING SURVEY DATA TO CHANGE THE NARRATIVE: When the airlines started making WiFi accessible to passengers, many reporters and columnists wondered whether passengers would be willing to pay for this convenience. A Wall Street Journal columnist wrote that WiFi was getting "a ho-hum reception." But only five days later, a New York Times headline declared: "Airborne WiFi May Soar Despite the Doubters." What caused this sudden shift in the media's perception? Matt helped develop survey questions for a trade association and its post-survey media strategy, enabling the client to share evidence confirming that consumers were willing to pay for WiFi service.