Digital PR Awards: Public Affairs Campaign

Winner: Capitol Media Partners - Bowe Bergdahl's Platoon Members Speak

In May 2014, President Obama held a White House Rose Garden ceremony to celebrate a prisoner swap that brought home U.S. Army soldier Bowe Bergdahl, the last remaining American prisoner of war from Afghanistan. The deal was controversial because it meant giving up five Taliban terrorists who had been detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for acts against America. The soldiers who served with Bergdahl in the Army when he disappeared were astonished. They knew the man had unequivocally deserted the U.S. Army and the media wasn’t saying it. They watched as Bergdahl was treated as a hero.

The injustice required them to take the bold risk of speaking out on a subject so sensitive that the U.S. Army once made them sign gag orders. They took to the only platform available to them, Twitter, to try to tell the world their story. CMP's founding partner, Richard Grenell, recognized by TIME Magazine for having one of its Top 10 Political Twitter Feeds of 2014, happened to see the guys’ pleas for help to tell their first-hand account. When he connected with one of the soldiers, it was instantly clear that they had an important story for the world to hear. Grenell brought in CMP partner Brad Chase, a non-partisan media campaign expert, to speak to the soldiers and hear their stories. 

This story wasn't about making names out of the soldiers, but reaching influential members of the Washington establishment who could take real action and formally investigate serious criminal activity. CMP decided to take on the soldiers’ case pro bono. The soldiers took to Twitter to better rally the supporters who would help encourage Congressional representatives to hold hearings into the matter; CMP focused on Twitter alone because it is the best channel to quickly and simply share opinions, particularly when multimedia (e.g., Facebook, Instagram) would have seemed contrived.

The soldiers also completed hundreds of interviews in news stories that were run by countless outlets around the globe, including significant wire, print, radio and online coverage. Ultimately, the top result was exactly what the soldiers wanted: an official Congressional hearing to share their story. Additionally, further government hearings and investigations are pending.

Honorable Mentions:

·               APCO Worldwide - U.S. Travel Association's Entry Reform Campaign

·               APTA + DDC Advocacy - Voices for Public Transit Campaign

·               Bravo Group Brings Campaign-Style Approach to PA Jobs, PA Energy Rally

·               Powell Tate on behalf of National Women's Law Center - This Is Personal

·               Purple Strategies - Financial Protection Benefits Campaign

·               TCIP Turkish Catastrophe Insurance Pool - TCIP - Compulsory Earthquake Insurance