Media Relations During Litigation Or Crisis

Winner: Ron Sachs Communications Inc.

Campaign: Alia Faraj-Johnson, Alan Crotzer Claims Bill

When Alan Crotzer was released from a Florida prison after 24 years of wrongful incarceration (he had been exonerated thanks to DNA evidence), a claims bill that would provide

him restitution for the years lost had been stuck in limbo in the state legislature.

Realizing that the bill would not move forward without strong outreach and public support, Crotzer's attorney, Mike Olenick, forged a partnership with Alia Faraj-Johnson, vice

president of the Tallahassee-based Ron Sachs Communications.

Knowledge Is Power

Also in stalemate at the Florida legislature was another bill relevant to the case that offered compensation to anyone wrongfully convicted. Because the then largely

Republican-dominated legislature did not historically embrace such bills, Faraj-Johnson knew she was waging an uphill battle.

Adhering to the tried and true tenet that knowledge is power, Faraj-Johnson studied the political layout by attending committee meetings, assessing reaction from the media and

targeting key staff directors and lawmakers who could effectively move the bill forward.

Righting A Wrong

Making this case her agency's most important pro-bono client, Faraj-Johnson strategized that the most effective way to generate support for the claims bill specific to Crotzer

was to put a human face on a miscarriage of justice. (Because the general compensation bill for the wrongfully convicted was not being well received in the legislature, Faraj-

Johnson decided to focus her initial efforts on the Crotzer bill.)

Introducing Crotzer to the Capitol press corps, various legislative committees and lawmakers, Faraj-Johnson gave Crotzer the opportunity to tell his story in his own words,

punctuated by heartfelt emotion and personal insights.

This tactic worked, allowing Crotzer's supporters to spotlight his case, while further depoliticizing the measure. By making the very sympathetic Crotzer the story, efforts

toward a claims bill victory gained the momentum needed for passage. Noting all the things Crotzer missed out on while incarcerated, Faraj-Johnson creating a touching and moving


In The Face Of Overwhelming Odds

Even when the odds were inexorably stacked against her, Faraj-Johnson was unrelentingly persistent on behalf of her client. For instance, with only a few weeks remaining in the

2007 legislative session, the claims bill looked doomed--but Faraj-Johson kept Crotzer in the media spotlight. And the story was so powerful it could not be ignored. Olenick and

his legal team embraced the communications strategy and were able to use it to secure support from public officials.

Exacting Justice

While the House and Senate considered the bill in the 2008 session, Crotzer, further reinforcing and promoting the importance of the story, watched from the gallery. The

Florida House passed the bill (which granted Crotzer $1.25 million and a state-paid college education) unanimously and publicly apologized to Crotzer from the floor. The story ran

in every major Florida media outlet, with the Senate following suit later that week.

Honorable Mention

Company: FD

Campaign: 290% Greater Than Expected: A Campaign to Maximize Returns to Enron's Creditors

In August 2007, Enron's Board of directors engaged FD to build a significant communications campaign that would highlight its multi-billion dollar lawsuit against Citigroup. As

a result of leveraging both new and traditional media outreach, Citigroup settled with Enron for $1.66 billion.

Honorable Mention

Company: AMERIGROUP Corporation

Campaign: AMERIGROUP Corporation Illinois Litigation

Slapped with a $334 million judgment in which AMERIGROUP Corporation had been accused of denying healthcare coverage to late-term pregnant women, the company wanted to defend

its reputation to the media and public. Casting doubt on the suit's allegations, the company made its case known with top-tier media outlets, such as the Wall Street

Journal and Fox Business Channel.

Honorable Mention

Company: Media & Communications Strategies, LLC

Campaign: Saving American Manufacturing Campaign

In 2007, The Gleason Group, a top hand truck manufacturer, was being forced to go out of business because the Department of Commerce had granted a low tariff to an

international competitor. To urge the department to reverse its decision, Gleason enlisted the services of Media & Communications Strategies, which devised a plan that would

target both media and lawmakers. As a result, Gleason stayed in business and 600 workers kept their jobs.