Center for Michigan
Launching Michigan’s Truth Squad
Goal: Boost the Center for Michigan’s profile by creating and managing a new, free web-based public service to help Michigan citizens become better-informed voters and correct misleading campaign ads from candidates running for public office.
- 2011 CMPRSA Best in Show for Public Affairs Campaigns
- 2011 CMPRSA Pinnacle Award for Public Affairs Campaign
Prior to launch, we interviewed political editors and reporters in our state Capitol press corps and at various newspapers across the state to measure interest in Truth Squad. The vast majority said they would. We drew inspiration from similar fact-checking ventures, as well as from the professional journalism experiences of our two agency principals, both of whom were long-time political and investigative reporters who covered national and state politics and campaigns. We also helped to accurately fact-check the ads. Each and every day we and our journalist “referees” researched state and federal records of all sorts, literally hundreds of public reports, on-the-record sources such as newspaper clips, and more to correct false or exaggerated claims made by those running for public office.
Action Plan & Communication Overview:
Martin Waymire proposed the Truth Squad concept and theme of “referees” (political journalists) calling “fouls” on bad ads by candidates. We designed, created, launched, and managed the website, including assisting in researching and editing ad analyses for fairness and accuracy.
To boost engagement, we encouraged people to submit tips about ads that might be misleading, false, or inaccurate and even offered rewards (like t-shirts) to those who submit valuable tips. We launched the Truth Squad at a news conference in early June at an annual conference attended by about 3,000 elected officials, business leaders, and the news media. Multiple TV stations partnered with the Truth Squad, using our ad calls in daily news stories. In addition, multiple newspapers and radio stations put links to the Truth Squad website on their election web pages. Multiple editorials praised the Truth Squad and urged readers to visit and bookmark it.
- We significantly exceeded all campaign performance metrics:
- 193,652 page views (exceeded performance goal of 50,000 page views by nearly 400%)
- 237 media stories — mentions in editorials, features and other news stories, blogs, columns (exceeded goal of 35 media stories by nearly 700%)
- 227 “tips” from Truth Squad tipsters (exceeded contract metric of 100 tips by more than 120%)
- The client planned to shut down the Truth Squad immediately after the general election. However, due to its success, the Truth Squad continued on for several more years.
- John Bebow, executive director, The Center for Michigan, said this about the project:
- “Thanks to Martin Waymire, the Michigan Truth Squad exceeded all performance metrics and our wildest dreams of success. Most importantly, it helped tens of thousands of Michigan voters make informed candidate decisions by blowing the whistle on false, misleading and inaccurate ads. That level of public service is priceless.”