Division A
Category 8 - Public Affairs
US CHAMBER: North Carolina Campaign for Responsible Health Reform

Research/Situational Analysis: In 2009, the US Chamber of Commerce held a small business meeting roundtable with their business members and found that they were opposed to the Affordable Health Choices Act (AHCA)—the health reform legislation that was being debated in Congress. The concern voiced was that they could not afford to purchase health insurance for all their employees, or pay a fine that the legislation would require if they did not. National polls showed that more than eight in 10 Americans were happy with their current employer-sponsored care and were concerned with potential changes. The US Chamber hired Moore Consulting Group (MCG) to launch a comprehensive public affairs campaign in North Carolina. It was determined by the Chamber that five US House members in NC were prime to educate and influence a NO vote for the AHCA. This public affairs campaign would involve grassroots advocacy, collateral development, media outreach, social media and special event planning. To begin, MCG conducted a thorough media scan in North Carolina to determine:  positions currently voiced by the key Congressional targets; media articles and positions taken by the media in their district; and what NC organizations and key community leaders had voiced their opposition to the AHCA. MCG also researched what national organizations supported our position so we could reach out to their state groups to engage them in the campaign. It was determined that building a coalition of like-minded individuals and organizations was needed to engage them in this campaign. Target audiences:  Five NC Congressional members and the North Carolina media.

Objectives: 1) To build a coalition of at least 4,000 North Carolinians to be engaged in this public affairs campaign as determined by their registering as advocates on the campaign website; Objective 2) To secure placement of two OpEds, eight LTEs, and two tier-one radio talk show opportunities for North Carolina Health Care Champions supporting our position against the AHCA; Objective 3) To secure one national media hit demonstrating our position and acknowledging our campaign efforts in NC; Objective 4) To hold 10 events in North Carolina that would result in a total of 400 calls, letters or meetings with the five Congressional targets; Objective 5) To collect 1,500 petition signatures asking for a NO vote;  Objective 6) To ensure three of our five Congressional targets voted against the AHCA; and Objective 7) To produce the five-month long campaign for less than $25,000 in expenses.

Implementation: 1) For the campaign, we created a Campaign for Responsible Health Reform coalition within a two-week period, with more than 1,000 members.  We developed a website, NC Campaign for Responsible Health Reform, to educate potential supporters about the issue and sign-up to become engaged. The coalition also decided to create a Health Care Champion program—a key influential person in each district who would speak to the media, participate in speaker’s bureau activities and help recruit other participants in talking to the Congressman about their vote on this issue. Through this program we actively engaged more than 2,500 people to attend meetings, send letters and pay visits to the members encouraging the NO vote.  To support their efforts, we developed coalition recruitment tools such as a weekly North Carolina Health Care e-alert with timely updates tailored to our target audiences; each e-alert profiled one of the Health Care Champions. We also reached out to conservative student leaders on several college campuses at key events. We created a Twitter account and Facebook page for the campaign, garnering hundreds of followers, and Facebook ads directed North Carolina Facebook users to the webpage. 2) We worked with our members and our Health Care Champions to identify ideal op-ed and LTE authors. We also drafted six op-eds and 25 LTEs in response to our opposition to capture the momentum of the topic. 3) We pitched one of our Health Care Champions, small business owner Patty Briguglio, to the Fox Business News “Happy Hour.” 4) MCG asked our members and champions to represent the campaign at their community events and found speaking opportunities for several key champions who were experts in their fields. We also conducted a Small Business Summit in Raleigh to bring together small business owners to discuss health care reform and call them to action. We partnered with the national MillionMedMarch campaign to host this statewide event and assist North Carolina’s physicians and nurses in having a well-attended event (the North Carolina event was one of the top three in the nation). 5) We sponsored booths at key county fairs where we reached thousands of residents in one weekend, enabling those interested to register online at the booth and collected petition signatures asking for a NO vote.  6) The multi-faceted campaign utilized media, social media, special events, and direct phone calls, emails and one-on-one meetings with the Congressional targets. Supporters sent there petitions to the targets via email and direct mail. 7) At the outset of the campaign, a simple website, Facebook ads, special event fliers and collateral material with messaging was developed to support the campaign. Each Champion delivered an attractive “North Carolina Health Care Champion” one-pager that featured a photograph, personal quote, statement on their position and expertise, and proposed solutions for responsible health reform. This began a productive relationship between the legislators and their champions.  In addition, the 13 Champions for Health Reform reached out weekly to the district offices. MCG also conducted a fly-in to Washington, DC with eight of the 13 North Carolina Champions to meet with the targeted Congressional members.

Evaluation: The five-month campaign well exceeded its goals as measured by: Objective 1) More than 5,800 North Carolinians joined the campaign through the website (exceeded goal by 1,800 members); Objective 2) We secured seven opinion editorials in major daily newspapers, 20 LTEs, and 12 radio talk shows about the campaign (exceeded goal by five op-eds, 12 LTEs and ten talk shows); Objective 3) Secured Health Care Champion on Friday’s Fox Business News “Happy Hour” where she debated live on national television (goal met); Objective 4) Conducted 24 events with more than 1,100 letters/meetings/calls to legislators (exceeded goal by 14 events, 600 letters/meetings/calls, and 1,500 petition signatures); Objective 5) Secured 3,000 petition signatures hand-delivered to legislators—double the goal!  Objective 6) Four of the five legislative targets voted against the Affordable Health Choices Act. Objective 7) Website, fliers, and event petition materials were produced for $7,640—under the $8,000 budget. 

Budget: Collateral design and copying: $1,300; website: $6,000; special events: $2,300; DC fly-in & other travel: $5,120; postage: $315; media clips: $160; Facebook ads: $220; staff time covered under $8,000 per month retainer. Total cost: $9,415 in expenses—well under the overall campaign goal of $25,000; staff time covered under the monthly retainer fee.