When the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, the 13 American colonies had already been at war with Great Britain for over a year. And in 2011, while fighting a war against rising unemployment in a struggling economy, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) used an integrated declaration-based public relations campaign to underscore the importance of innovation.
CEA leadership believes that historically the country’s outstanding record of innovation has given the U.S. its strategic advantage globally, and it supports policies that promote innovation across the nation as the key to economic recovery.
That’s why in June 2011, with the help of communications agencies APCO Worldwide and the David All Group, the Consumer Electronics Association enacted a Declaration of Innovation campaign to heighten awareness of the organization as a leader in innovation policy in Washington and beyond.
As part of the CEA’s larger Innovation Movement, the Declaration of Innovation campaign also sought to grow an active base of Americans around CEA’s key innovation policy issues, and energize and engage with its current members—many of whom had never taken action on behalf of the organization’s key policies before.
The 2011 Consumer Electronics (CE) Week, a series of events attended by thousands of consumer electronics industry professionals and media, was scheduled for the first time in New York City on June 20-24. The series of city-wide events presented an opportunity to reach both Washington decision-makers’ constituents in person, and across the country over the Web. The proximity of CE Week to Independence Day also created an opportunity to tie the campaign to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
A 12-person team, comprised of CEA staff and its agency partners, drafted the declaration to serve as simple and compelling piece, one which the entire Innovation Movement could rally around. Laura Hubbard, senior manager of division and policy communications at CEA, says the team drafted the declaration to succinctly encompass the range of policies that promote innovation in a compact and digestible fashion that people could easily see and sign. While many people know about the CEA’s annual International Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas, Hubbard says few know that the organization has a side that seeks policy changes within the government.
Thus, the messaging focused on the four pillars that promote innovation (see graphic), and the specific campaign goals were to:
• Drive awareness of issues affecting American innovation
• Encourage pro-innovation legislative actions/outcomes
• Recruit peers to grow the movement and create greater impact.
Beyond the goal of spreading awareness, the campaign had a call to action—to have Americans put their “John Hancock” on the declaration as a pledge to help innovation return to its place at the center of America’s economic policy.
Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CEA and author of The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream, was the first to articulate the policy objectives of the declaration and connect it to the discussion of American innovation. He kicked off the messaging efforts during his keynote speech at CE Week.
Additionally, social and traditional media were used for engagement. Becky Boles, VP, David All Group, says the digital strategy was to bring to life—through digital media—how innovation affects Americans’ businesses and daily lives.
“Innovation can come in many forms—from the CEO trying to inspire his engineers to a college student trying to push the boundaries of music through technology,” says Boles. “Our messaging was centered around how innovation is vital to who we are as Americans and to the success of the economy.” Specific digital tactics included:
▶ A Facebook page encouraged new fans to become official members of the movement via a customized landing page, and an in-network tab featured a registration form that encouraged existing members to sign the Declaration of Innovation.
▶ A custom “Voices Tab” on Facebook was developed to feature short narratives about active fans expressing how innovation has fueled a comeback in their lives. Each narrative included photos, videos and textual elements to bring the story alive. “The Facebook tabs helped organize multiple pieces of the campaign under one roof,” says Preeti Wali, senior associate at APCO Worldwide. Hubbard notes that without the tabs, they’d have had to send people off of the Facebook site to find the different information on the campaign’s home page. “We created an all-encompassing presence on Facebook—after all, people don’t want to leave there if they don’t have to,” says Hubbard.
▶ The @imovement Twitter feed engaged users and also pushed its followers to the Facebook tab to sign the declaration with the #declareinnovation hashtag
▶ A satellite media tour was conducted on the morning of June 20 featuring Shapiro to announce the launch of the Declaration of Innovation. The team worked with broadcast PR firm DS Simon Productions, and the media tour included morning talk shows to further reach people outside the D.C. area in regards to CEA’s policy stance.
▶ A postcard was distributed to attendees at CE Week that included a quick response code (QR) linking to the Declaration of Innovation, which visitors could sign. Wali says a major goal of campaign was to be platform agnostic in driving visitors to the declaration. “The site was formatted to be mobile compatible as well, so that whichever way you heard about it, you could have as seamless an experience as possible,” says Wali (see sidebar for more information on using QR codes).
▶ Ads ran in print and online media—from The Hill and Politico to the Drudge Report— and displayed imagery of Thomas Jefferson and messages surrounding free trade agreements and Internet freedom.
For Hubbard, the most challenging piece of the campaign involved spokesperson availability. After the team had done media relations outreach leading to the satellite media tour and kickoff of CE Week, CNN requested an interview with Gary Shapiro—but on July 4, not June 20. Shapiro was out of the country on July 4, so the team worked furiously to connect him with CNN’s Studio in Italy.
Given only four weeks to launch the digital component of the campaign, Boles says the hardest part was taking a simple idea and bringing it to life in a compelling way within the timeframe. But that clearly wasn’t too much of an issue, considering the results:
• Within the first two months of the launch of the Declaration of Innovation, the Innovation Movement Facebook community grew tenfold, from 2,000 to more than 21,500 members.
• It earned more than 19,500 likes on Facebook and activated more than 1,500 to sign the Declaration of Innovation.
• The campaign has generated more than 15,000 new views on YouTube and driven more than 5,500 visits to the pledge microsite.
• The integrated campaign has yielded well over 36 million impressions between print, online and social advertisements, expanding the reach of the campaign message.
• In addition to the Declaration of Innovation general call to action, the CEA also tailored messages to political activity on Capitol Hill that would affect American innovation, including the discussions surrounding three key free trade agreements.
Boles says that 2012 should present opportunities for political candidates to help keep the importance of innovation in the forefront of people’s minds. The team seeks to create more dynamic content featuring CEA members, casting a spotlight on those who believe most that innovation can help restore a struggling economy. PRN
Laura Hubbard, email@example.com, Preeti Wali, firstname.lastname@example.org, Becky Boles, email@example.com.