It was a great program and we want to thank ACCCE for the opportunity to be a part of this amazing effort that also included targeted advertising and traditional and online media relations.
This campaign was focused in key states during the 2008 primary and general election campaign. Our challenge was to get the candidates, media, and opinion "influencers" to start talking about the importance of American coal to our energy future and the need to fund clean coal technology.
Even in a communication-saturated environment we achieved, even exceeded, our wildest expectations (and we believe those of our client!). Not only did we raise the awareness of the issue, but we got the major candidates on both sides of the aisle talking about the issue in the debates, at campaign rallies and in interviews. We did this by finding creative ways to increase the visibility
of the issue and by demonstrating strong voter support
. We successfully integrated traditional communication and grassroots tactics with online strategies and tools.
The presidential campaign concluded with both candidates, their running mates and surrogates talking about and supporting clean coal technology. The issue was mentioned in all four general election debates. This was a 180-degree turn from earlier in the campaign when none of the candidates were focused on this issue.
The program also had an impact on the perception of coal among public opinion leaders. In September 2007, on the key measurement questionDo you support/oppose the use of coal to generate electricity?
we found 46 percent support and 50 percent oppose. In a 2008 year-end survey that result had shifted to 72 percent support and 22 percent oppose. Not only did we see significantly increased support, opposition was cut by more than half.
Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain addresses a crowd wearing "Clean Coal hats" in Pennsylvania. This photo ran in USA Today on Nov. 3
MSNBC's Chris Matthews who sought out our Pennsylvania Clean Coal Team to ask about our efforts.
Building on our existing 200,000-strong grassroots citizen army, we leveraged the presidential candidates' own supporters, finding advocates for clean coal among the crowd to carry our message. We got these on-the-spot advocates to show strong public support to the candidates and to the media, and enhanced that visibility by integrating online media that created even more of a buzz.
We did this by sending "clean coal" branded teams to hundreds of presidential candidate events, carrying a positive message (we can be part of the solution
to climate change) which was reinforced by giving away free t-shirts and hats emblazoned with our branding: Clean Coal. Attendees at the candidate events wore these items into the events.
We nearly turned candidate events into clean coal rallies.
“And I saw somebody with a clean coal technology hat. We have abundant coal.”
[Barack Obama] said.
(Scranton Times-Tribune, April 2, 2008)
"Joe the Plumber" dons a Clean Coal hat
Young supporters at a campaign rally
The sea of supporters cheering their candidate while wearing the ACCCE message was a game changer. We watched as our message was transmitted by shirts and hats waved by thousands of excited supporters from the stands of high school gyms, floors of hotel ballrooms and tables of crowded coffee shops. The pictures of our supporters were caught and broadcast by local and national media, including USA Today
and Fox News
. Soon our message was repeated back to us from the podium by the candidates themselves.
We used e-mail newsletters and social media Facebook, YouTube
to share the excitement and success with what we were doing both with our own members and the broader public. The content was driven by photos and videos of our teams interacting with candidates and the crowds at their events. As much as possible we got our "audience" talking to us about their support for clean coal. (Example: www.youtube.com
Our visibility increased the numbers of people joining our grassroots network online by 190 percent, and increased traffic to our Web site by 186 percent
. Some of our videos were in the top 100 watched in YouTube's
How did we do it?
We took a two-pronged approach. The first part of our strategy was to raise visibility for clean coal at campaign events. The second part was to get media visibility in swing districts in the states by conducting media "whistle stop" tours.
Our approach at candidate events included the following:
- We placed teams in early primary/caucus states, and key battleground states during the fall general election
- We used branding for "clean coal" and "America's Power" consistent with our national advertising campaign
Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden with a member of our North Carolina team.
- The team drove a branded, flex-fuel mini-van to events for added visibility
- At each event, we handed out tee shirts and hats with "clean coal" and our logo and Web url; as well as literature on our issue, to as many event attendees as possible as they stood in line waiting to enter the event
- In the colder months, we also gave out cups of coffee bearing our logo
- Took hundreds of photos and shot video of our activities and posted on our Web site, blog, Facebook page, Flickr account and YouTube channel
- We constantly mobilized our existing grassroots citizen army to mail and e-mail the candidates and ask for support of clean coal technology: Candidate Survey
- As we attended rallies, campuses, diners and worked town squares, we distributed sign-up cards inviting voters to join our grassroots network
- We routinely e-mailed our grassroots network our schedule, as well as links to the photos and videos online. Example e-mail
- We created and passed out business cards with our Web site, blog, Facebook page, Flickr account and YouTube channel to campaign event attendees.
The purpose of these tours was to raise the awareness of clean coal in communities we expected the candidates or their surrogates to visit. Elements included:
- Using our internal polling, overlaid with national political polling, we targeted counties that we deemed to have a high percentage of swing voters.
- We issued a media advisory letting the local media know a national "clean coal" campaign was coming to their town center.
- We dropped by media outlets to distribute our media packets, have pictures taken and in some cases conduct an interview.
- During these stops we would also visit the county courthouse, meet with local elected officials (many of whom are members of our existing grassroots citizen army) and visit local diners to distribute our materials, including clean coal placemats with our message and branding.
- We would also visit any local colleges or universities and pass out hats, tee shirts and literature in the student unions or common area of campus.
- In addition, we set up shop at local events where we were sure to draw the attention of large crowds, such as football games, the World Series games that were played in Philadelphia, county fairs and the North Carolina State Fair.
- We directly reached over 50,000 people at candidate events (talked with them, handed them information).
- We indirectly reached over 1,000,000 people attending the candidate events (they saw our hats, t-shirts and other collateral). This does NOT count the people who saw news reports of our activities on TV and in the newspapers.
- We traveled over 44,500 miles in the seven statesexposing many more people to the branded Clean Coal Vans and teams as they traveled through the states. (That's almost twice around the world at the equator!)
- We stopped in 207 cities and towns along the way.
- Our YouTube videos were viewed by over 17,000 people.
All of this produced a clear result: ACCCE found a way to break through the clutter and noise and make our issue front and center. President-elect Obama and Senator McCain, their running mates and their surrogates adopted our language and included it as part of their stump speeches. ACCCE shaped the debate by finding supporters of the candidates and turning them into clean coal advocates.
We believe this campaign is noteworthy
because of our measurable success
. It is different
than other corporate, coalition and association campaigns because we used political campaign organizing effectively in a public affairs campaign
and integrated traditional techniques with social media. It was innovative
because we were able to find among the candidates' own supportersin addition to our 200,000 member grassroots networkenough grassroots advocates to influence the candidates.
“…as election day nears, both candidates are competing over who will do more to support clean coal initiatives. For that, some credit belongs to [ACCCE President] Stephen Miller.”
(Wall Street Journal
, October 20, 2008)
We became an integral part of the story rather than fighting for news in a saturated communications environment.
- Social media requires socializing in the real world. Our YouTube videos became popular because they contained interactions between us and many voters in many states. It wasn't just us talking TO people, it was us talking WITH people and making them part of the story.
- "Positive" sells. We took a difficult, controversial issue and presented it positively, talked to people about being part of a solution, and had fun.
- Devising and implementing a strategy that focused on going where the news was happening and the crowds were gathering gave us greater results than trying to make people and news come to us.
The Hawthorn Group