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Census 2020: Going Digital to Reach Hard-to-Count Communities

Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau began a phased restart of field operations in an additional 14 states, and there's at least one field office at work in all 50 states. (U.S. Census Bureau)
Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau began a phased restart of field operations in an additional 14 states, and there's at least one field office at work in all 50 states. (U.S. Census Bureau)
June 2, 2020

DENVER -- The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape for groups working to ensure an accurate count in the 2020 census.

It's estimated that 50% of people who rely on programs that get funding based on census numbers go uncounted. Brandon Stiller, creative director at the Open Media Foundation, said their new social media toolkit has taken on an especially important role in a time of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, because many of their community-based partners in the campaign had planned in-person outreach.

"During this COVID crisis we feel that it's important to pivot our efforts and really focus energy towards social media," Stiller said, "because we're all living digitally to some extent right now."

The toolkit includes public service announcements featuring leaders from a range of organizations across Colorado trusted by traditionally hard to count communities. Stiller noted these assets can be shared by groups on platforms their constituents are most familiar with. There's also a calendar feature and detailed best practices for what to post, where, and when, to get the biggest reach.

The pandemic forced the U.S. Census Bureau to extend the deadline for self-reporting in the once-a-decade tally of all people living in the U.S. to October 31. So far, just over 60% of U.S. households have been counted.

Stiller said social-media platforms make outreach to very specific communities and demographics possible.

"If you're looking to target parents of children under 5 years old - which is one of the hard-to-count communities as identified by the census - you can hone in on that with the Facebook demographic tools and promote your posts for that demographic," he said.

Open Media Foundation also partnered with the Colorado Broadcasters Association and Public News Service to distribute informational radio and video spots through traditional media outlets. Stiller said his team is on track to reach at least 88% of all of the state's residents highlighting the importance of census participation by the end of June.

Disclosure: Open Media Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Census. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO