Best Practices in Distributing and Promoting EFNA

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Appeared in Fraser Insight, July 2016

Economic freedom is one of the main drivers of prosperity and growth, and the evidence shows that states with low levels of economic freedom reduce the ability of their citizens to prosper economically. The Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of North America (EFNA) report measures the impact of economic freedom in relation to the level and growth of economic activity in all 50 U.S. states, 32 Mexican states, and 10 Canadian provinces, by creating an index utilizing 10 components based on size of government, taxation, and labor-market freedom. In 2014, we launched our EFNA Network to promote the EFNA report across the United States.

Starting with 10 partners in nine states, the EFNA Network now comprises 25 full partners representing 22 U.S. states, Canada and Mexico.

Thanks to our Network, EFNA media mentions in the United States jumped by a whopping 243 percent after the release of EFNA 2014. The number of downloads of the two most recent editions of EFNA has more than doubled since the establishment of the EFNA Network, to 10,000-plus downloads. All told, there have been 20 states with EFNA 2015 placements, mentions and/or outputs this year (as of May 31, 2016) vs. nine states last year; 19 placements in national outlets this year vs. six last year; 67 articles, essays, op-eds and blog posts this year  vs. 24 last year. And we’re still counting. That’s real impact.

We convened our second annual gathering of EFNA Network partners June 1-2, 2016, in Dallas. As in Year One, our partners at SMU’s O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom hosted the event, which included 21 think-tank leaders and free-market scholars representing four nations, 10 states, 11 EFNA Network partners and 15 free-market organizations.

Among those in attendance: the Grassroot Institute (Hawaii), Texas Public Policy Foundation, Mackinac Center (Michigan), Buckeye Institute (Ohio), Arkansas Center for Research in Economics at the University of Central Arkansas, Pelican Institute (Louisiana), Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University (Alabama), Center for the Philosophy of Freedom at the University of Arizona, SMU O'Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom (Texas), George W. Bush Institute (U.S.), Life and Liberty Indexes (U.S.), Visio Institute (Slovenia), Caminos de la Libertad (Mexico) and the Fraser Institute (Canada).

Attendance was up from Year One in the number of attendees and in the number of nations, states and organizations represented, but it’s important to note that the conference represented just a fraction of our current EFNA Network. The Beacon Center (Tennessee), Sagamore Institute (Indiana), Commonwealth Foundation (Pennsylvania), James Madison Institute (Florida), Caesar Rodney Institute (Delaware), Independent Institute (California), Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise at the University of Louisville (Kentucky), Alaska Policy Forum, Washington Policy Center, Georgia Center for Opportunity, Public Policy Foundation of West Virginia, Great Plains Public Policy Institute (South Dakota), Institute for Economic Inquiry at Creighton University (Nebraska) and Independence Institute (Colorado) are also part of our EFNA Network.

Our Network partners contributed to the promotion and distribution of EFNA 2015 in several creative ways.

State-Specific Versions of EFNA
The Buckeye Institute of Ohio fully embraced the role of “co-publisher” by adding state-specific findings to the report and publishing an Ohio version of the report. Buckeye added its logo to the cover and Ohio-specific data (which included Ohio’s strengths, weakness and comparisons to neighboring states) as an intro to the report. Buckeye also published the Ohio-specific data as a standalone product on its website, distributed state-specific info sheets to state policymakers and posted the state-specific info on social media. Buckeye’s media blitz also led to stories in Ohio newspapers.

“The product is a dashboard of Ohio's strengths and weaknesses,” Buckeye COO Rea Hederman explains. “As Ohio's rankings improve, this reinforces a positive message to our policy influencers on why good policy affects economic freedom. The EFNA also singles out particular areas of need for Ohio to improve.” Hederman adds that sending the report to donors had a positive impact.

Newsletters and Magazines
No partner has used the EFNA report as fuel for its print and electronic publications more frequently or more effectively than the Mackinac Center. Mike LaFaive and Jack McHugh churned out a steady stream of articles for Mackinac’s Capitol Confidential, which reaches some 35,000 subscribers. Some of these articles led to stories in Michigan newspapers.

Mackinac was not alone. The Pelican Institute used EFNA 2015 as jumping-off point for a Louisiana-specific article in The Pelican Post, and the Fraser Institute promoted EFNA 2015 in the State Policy Network’s magazine, SPN News.

Skype-casts and Interviews
The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii is a trailblazer when it comes to leveraging EFNA findings (and authors) for insightful interviews. The Fraser Institute also contributed to the cause, conducting an interview with The New York Post.

Blogs and Social Media
Several of our partners used the findings and data from EFNA 2015 as fodder for their blogs and Facebook pages. The Beacon Center, Commonwealth Foundation, Mackinac Center, and Buckeye Institute generated blogs and social media highlighting EFNA 2015.

Media Releases
Many partners took advantage of our state-tailored media releases to generate interest in the report. Several even produced their own media releases, which led to broader coverage of, and exposure for, EFNA 2015. For instance, the Alaska Policy Forum’s media release led to stories in business and policy journals. Likewise, the Grassroot Institute’s release led to a story in one of the state’s largest newspapers.

The report would not have generated the media interest it did in California, Texas, Pennsylvania and Nebraska without our partners at the Independent Institute, Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), SMU O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom, Commonwealth Foundation and the Institute for Economic Inquiry at Creighton University.

Several Network members, like TPPF, Johnson Center at Troy University, Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise at the University of Louisville, Arkansas Center for Research in Economics at the University of Central Arkansas, the SMU O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom, and, and the Fraser Institute used the report as a springboard for scores of columns in prominent national and statewide publications.

Scholarly Work
Researchers from the Johnson Center at Troy University and SMU O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom cited EFNA in academic papers. In addition, in 2015 EFNA was cited in the following journals: Economic Behavior, Economic Freedom and Entrepreneurship, The Russian Journal of Economics, The Journal of International Financial Markets, Institutions & Money, Economics & Politics, Social Philosophy and Policy, The Journal of Entrepreneurship and Public Policy, The Journal of Entrepreneurship and Public Policy, Private Financing of Public Transportation Infrastructure: Utilizing Public-Private Partnerships, and Contemporary Economic Policy.

TPPF, the Johnson Center at Troy University and James Madison University hosted EFNA authors for events.

Put it all together, and it seems there are almost as many ways to use the EFNA report as there are partners in the EFNA Network.

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