As a relatively unknown national trade association for managers and trustees of public sector employee pension funds, the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems (NCPERS), recognized the need to enhance its visibility and reputation as “The Voice of Public Pensions” at a time when the public sector and its Defined Benefit pension plans were under increasing political attack from cash-strapped state legislatures seeking to roll back employee benefits as a means to balance budgets.
In 2005, NCPERS hired CommCore to develop talking points and messaging to help defeat a California ballot initiative that would have closed CalPERS, the largest defined benefit pensions in the nation. Subsequently, NCPERS employed CommCore periodically to conduct media training, make presentations at its educational conferences, and provide communications support.
Since 2010, NCPERS has retained CommCore as its full-time communications consultant. In 2010 many politicians were flogging public sector pension funds, with some states trying to replace employee Defined Benefit (DB) pension plans with Defined Contribution (DC) plans. CommCore worked with NCPERS to conceive, plan and help implement an awareness campaign positioning DB pensions as a solution to a national retirement crisis, and NCPERS as the go-to resource for reporters.
CommCore and NCPERS collaborated on an extensive Message Development program with NCPERS members and allied organizations, followed by Spokesperson Training, Website and Content Development, Media and Stakeholder Relations, and Social Media Engagement. We created a memorable campaign theme: “Retirement Security for All” to present the public sector pension plan model as a solution to the growing national private sector retirement crisis.
CommCore provided message and media toolkit development, spokesperson training, and ongoing media and communications counsel and implementation. As a result, the viability of public sector pensions and NCPERS’ Secure Choice Pension model for a public-private partnership to help solve the nation’s retirement security crisis are now part of the ongoing retirement security policy conversation in several states and in the news media.
NCPERS and CommCore have re-cast the debate in opinion columns, letters to the editor, statements and blogs about public sector pensions. NCPERS’ Executive Director Hank Kim and Board Chair Mel Aaronson became go-to “Thought Leader” resources for media and allied organizations that now reach out to NCPERS on issues related to public pensions. NCPERS’ “Secure Choice Pension” White Paper became a principal model for several current state and federal bills and legislative initiatives aimed at addressing the nation’s looming retirement crisis.
For the past 11 years, CommCore has been a trusted advisor and friend to NCPERS. Much of our media presence can be attributed to their public relations efforts on our behalf. But what I value most of our relationship is the availability of CommCore. They are always a phone call, email, or text away. And in many instances, Nick and his team reach out to me first. Congratulations on the first 30 years. I’m looking forward to working with you for the next 30!
Hank Kim, Executive Vice President and Counsel