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Communications

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Developing highly strategic messaging platforms and integrated communications strategies to build awareness, influence public opinion, impact legislation, and engage and move important constituencies into action. For more insights, see our Work Highlights & Full Client Roster.

Branding

Representative Client: HHPLift

HHPLift retained Thinkinc. to assist in its organizational, branding and market development as it was transitioning from a founder-led non-profit previously named Helping Hands Partners to become HHPLift an institution led by professionals who would take the organization to its next level.

Its initial premise was based on serving as an intermediary and conduit for non-profits in the social enterprise arena in less developed countries and marketing and selling their products to the US marketplace. In addition, core to their mission was building workforce development programming by working with organizations that prepared workers and HHPLift provided the jobs that would train them in their professional development and over time transition these workers into other positions and professions.

Under its new leadership the organization expanded its programs to build a more Chicago centric set of businesses and products that engage people with multiple barriers to employment including people living with disabilities and those who have been involved in the criminal justice system. HHPLift works with them to share the basics of building a business as they make a line of luxurious spa products to sell.

Seeking a rebranding, HHPLift brought in Thinkinc. We worked closely with them to develop a new language to describe their powerful work and an extensive brand book so they could carry their new look, feel and positioning into the future.

HHPLift received guidance on outlined audiences, images and a complete revamping of the product presentation and a redesign that reflects the growing vision of the organization. We also broadened HHPLift’s relationships, developing key partnerships with a range of groups that serve people facing multiple barriers to employment. These groups included Heartland Alliance’s READI Chicago program. Thinkinc. goes beyond idea development, marketing and media relations. Thinkinc. extends our clients’ vision and their reach by helping them expand their networks. For more insights, see our Work Highlights & Full Client Roster.

Crisis Communications

Representative Client: Chicago Alderman Michael D. Rodriguez

Thinkinc. was contacted by Ald. Mike Rodriguez, a longtime ally who was seeking crisis communications and strategy, after a deal cut by his predecessor literally imploded, creating a crisis in his home community.

On Mother’s Day weekend, 2020, a corporate developer botched a demolition project, sending up a cloud of dust that then descended upon Little Village, a predominantly Latinx Chicago neighborhood that continues to serve as a portal to immigrants newly arriving in the United States. The developer, Hilco, which had already violated the terms of its city-issued permit, was taking down the stack of a former coal-fired power-generating plant. It had gained permission to use an implosion technique by promising there would be no dust spread beyond the property’s perimeter. The area had received little warning and the residents were incensed as the dust, of unknown composition, permeated their homes, yards and vehicles.

Coming on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was itself creating tragedy in a community filled with so-called essential workers, the dust storm was one more hit to residents already buffeted by the ongoing health consequences of environmental racism.

The alderman was facing this multi-pronged crisis, which included holding a company with a history of bad implosions accountable, sorting out what culpability the city had in allowing the demolition to go forward and identifying ways to prevent a similar recurrence.

Our goal was to ensure that the community’s voice was heard, while ensuring that the blame did not fall on this new alderman, who would not have chosen this company or approved this project, while balancing the needs of the community to revitalize this site and create jobs for his community. We had to put the alderman in position to pursue his primary objective of moving toward a more healthy future for community residents.

Thinkinc., with the aldermen and his team, successfully navigated a number of challenges between local community groups, government agencies, the company and the city. For more insights, see our Work Highlights & Full Client Roster.

Amplifying the Voices of Youth

Representative Client: Communities United

Communities United and VOYCE have been longtime clients. We continue to represent both groups in their efforts to raise the voices of youth leaders on equity, racial justice, trauma-informed solutions that would foster safe communities and schools and ensure access to health care.

Going back to the beginning, Thinkinc. was there to amplify the message when CU formally launched VOYCE in 2007, with Chicago Public Schools then-CEO Arne Duncan at Spertus College with several hundred community leaders and activists in attendance. The event served to strongly position the organization for its future work.

In early 2020, when the student leaders wanted to speak out on the systemic inequality of people of color in communities that are financially challenged we provided support for CU/VOYCE to raise their voices in the public space and media around equity, policing, public safety and health.

Thinkinc. partnered with staff to back student efforts aimed at removing police from Chicago Public Schools. We were able to position the organizations’ leadership with elected officials and keep their message in the media — both traditional and social. Tragically, one of their key youth leaders was killed in the summer of 2020 and we worked again with staff to elevate the memory of Caleb Reed and to ensure his legacy of love was heard throughout the nation. For more insights, see our Work Highlights & Full Client Roster.

Communicating Innovative Thinking

Representative Client: Field Foundation

The Leaders for a New Chicago and the Media & Storytelling awards were part of the Field Foundation’s strategy to position itself under its new leadership with an overtly racial equity lens. The Chicago-based Field Foundation takes an innovative approach to grantmaking. While considered a smaller foundation based on assets, its work on a range of issues has had a far greater impact both locally and nationally.

With several million dollars of support from the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Field developed an awards program that seeks out and recognizes established and emerging leaders — often people of color — who are working at the crossroads of multiple disciplines. The Field goes one step further, providing them and their organizations with unrestricted funding. The idea is to give these visionaries the time, space and network-expanding opportunities to benefit Chicago as they build the worlds of their dreams.

Over a two-year period, we assisted in increasing the depth and breadth of nominations, garnering media coverage for the awards, and promoting the recipients and their work. In 2020, the awards’ profile grew significantly, with an extensive story featured on the front of the Chicago Tribune’s Lifestyles section and a substantive television piece on (PBS) WTTW’s award-winning “Chicago Tonight” evening news hour as well as local coverage in African American, Latinx and community media outlets. For more insights, see our Work Highlights & Full Client Roster.

Listening and Speaking to Communities

Representative Client: Full Circle Communities

Affordable housing has always been a challenging issue for Chicago, known for its racial segregation. Full Circle Communities, a non-profit affordable housing developer with experience in multiple states came to us when one of its Chicago projects ran into a particularly virulent version of not-in-my-backyard opposition from the community. Full Circle was planning a mixed-income, mid-rise on underutilized land, designed for families, persons with disabilities and veterans.

The proposed development was in Jefferson Park, on Chicago’s Northwest side, which has an entrenched enclave of conservative and mostly white residents. Their opposition, infused with explicit racial and anti-Semitic epithets that almost led to violence, emerged at a raucous local community meeting held by the alderman, who strongly supported the development.

The developer, Full Circle, retained Thinkinc. to work with the alderman and community supporters to ensure approvals by the City of Chicago and State of Illinois for both funding and zoning. Our job was to formulate a strategy that addressed legitimate concerns while building public support for their development. We set out to build a broad-based coalition that would garner the support from city and state agencies and to demonstrate to the public that Jefferson Park was not a racist community. We assisted with media relations, marketing and political strategy.

Thinkinc.’s ability to listen to communities and speak in their language was a key to gaining public support. We worked with a newly emerging group that split off from a local community organization controlled by the older white residents who were against the development. We also brought in a range of external policy and advocacy groups to support the development. Behind the scenes we worked to unify the various players who were in support of the project but also had varying agendas. Despite these differences and other obstacles, the development is now moving forward. For more insights, see our Work Highlights & Full Client Roster.

Building a National Campaign

Representative Client: Journey For Justice (J4J)

Journey For Justice is an alliance of grassroots community organizations in more than 30 cities “organizing to win community-driven alternatives to the privatization of and dismantling of public-school systems.” Thinkinc. was engaged to strategize and promote J4J’s emerging national campaign to promote community-driven school reform through alliance member and longtime client, Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) (website.) Our work included production of all media documents and promotion/story placement with local and national media.

In summer 2017 when the leadership was preparing for simultaneous actions to fight school privatization – in cities across the country – we were asked to get them coverage. Using press materials and social media, we helped craft a message that could be used by each of the diverse groups, whether they were based in major cities or medium-sized towns. On the ground, the message was being delivered in a series of tactics, including a rally and a bus tour. Thinkinc. was up to the challenge of alerting media about a range of upcoming events across a broad swath of the country stretching over a period of months. Organizations did the nitty gritty and got coverage for their work.

In January 2013, Thinkinc. was retained by Journey For Justice to provide strategic media relations consulting services to gain national and Chicago-based media attention, as well as provide support for alliance members in local media markets, for the Journey For Justice Community Hearing with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at the U.S. Department of Education Auditorium in Washington, D.C. The Hearing kicked off the J4J national campaign calling for a moratorium on discriminatory school closings and the replacement of failed reform strategies with the J4J proposal for community-driven, sustainable school transformation. For more insights, see our Work Highlights & Full Client Roster.

Issue Framing & Public Education Campaigns

Representative Client: Alternative Schools Network (ASN)

Our clients’ success is crucial to our continued work. We don’t just work with our clients, we partner with them. We have worked with Jack Wuest, executive director, the Alternative Schools Network (ASN) for more than 20 years.

These schools are for out-of-school youths who are former dropouts or who for one reason or another aren’t succeeding in the public-school system.

2017 is representative of our work. From January to June that year, Thinkinc.’s strategic thinking kept the media’s attention on ASN’s important report about Illinois’ disconnected Black and Brown youth who were out of school and out of work. Read our in-depth case study on how Thinkinc. helped generate big viewership and nearly $250,000 in publicity value, even on a very tight deadline.

We work with ASN as overall strategists to build power, develop connections with key stakeholders and raise funding through enhanced visibility and relationship building.

Over the years, funding for youth employment programs, which highly correlate with success in finishing high school, finding work with a living wage, moving forward to college and playing a positive role in their home communities, had begun to fall. To combat this trend, we helped conceptualize, design and then release a series of reports about youth employment, and unemployment, in the city.

Using media relations and social media, we have gained widespread attention for these reports, timing the release with large convenings of policy makers and former out of school youth. In the process we also forged an alliance between ASN and the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Great Cities Institute, another client, which then was commissioned to do several of the youth-employment reports.

The release convenings directly engaged the voices of the youth and shaped perceptions, in understanding and in language. We have thus raised the sense of urgency in addressing dropout issues and built political will to support legislative change and funding.

For more insights, see our Work Highlights & Full Client Roster.

Government & Community Relations

Representative Client: IGO Carsharing

Thinkinc. worked with IGO, CNT and Enterprise Holdings to assist in messaging for the merger announcement to ensure that IGO and CNT’s voice were represented and incorporated with Enterprise’s positioning. Additionally, Thinkinc. conducted local media relations to facilitate story positioning and local placement. For more insights, see our Work Highlights & Full Client Roster.

Event Planning

Representative Client: Shambala Meditation Center of Chicago

Thinkinc. conceptualized a framework for the weekend event, the Imagining Peace Conference, which then featured a Youth Congress on Peace, that would address the pressing issue of escalating youth violence in the Chicago region through a lens of peace, asking the vital question to policy makers, students and community leaders what their vision of peace was for their communities. The conference/congress served as an effective vehicle for connecting the Shambhala organization with a range of policy makers and a broader regional audience of youth advocacy organizations, violence prevention organizations, regional stakeholders, community members and at-risk youth. For more insights, see our Work Highlights & Full Client Roster.

Branding & Messaging

Representative Client: Latino Policy Forum

Thinkinc. provided strategic planning, political consulting, positioning, and media relations services for the Latino Policy Forum (formerly Latinos United) to relaunch the organization with its new name, raise overall visibility, and increase recognition of the organization with key stakeholders. Central to this work, Thinkinc. developed the concept for a Latino Policy Summit to serve as a forum for the release of the Latino Policy Forum’s policy blueprint, An American Agenda from a Latino Perspective. We strategized the program, helped secure local and national speakers, prepared a visual presentation to accompany the unveiling of the policy blueprint report, drafted detailed key talking points and internal agenda, as well as devised and rolled out a media strategy including drafting all press materials and reaching out to local and national mainstream and Latino media.  The Summit was a great success with nearly 500 attendees and significant media attention in both the mainstream and Latino media. For more insights, see our Work Highlights & Full Client Roster.

To discuss how Thinkinc. can get your organization to the next level, contact us now at lrglenn@thinkincstrategy.com.