Grassroots email campaign may signal end of workplace smoking in Texas

How do you fight powerful local opposition to legislative action on a public health issue when you’re hampered by weak local support? This public affairs team found the solution.


Eight national nonprofit organizations banded together in 2005 to form the Smoke-Free Texas (SFT) coalition.

The fact that these were national, not state organizations gives an idea of the depth and fervor of ordinary citizen sentiment behind Texas’ entrenched local opposition to nonsmoking laws.

The SFT coalition, after five years of the good fight, decided to change tactics in 2010. Still determined to turn Texas into a state where workers’ health would not be compromised by second-hand smoke, SFT hired Noble Strategic Partners Inc., an Austin public affairs firm.

Noble’s mission: Plan an “email advocacy campaign to recruit, educate, and engage an army of grassroots supporters” to change the minds of legislators notoriously suspicious of either state or federal government intrusion into the affairs of private citizens.

The goal
: Persuade the 82nd Texas Legislature to pass a law in 2011 forbidding smokers to light up in the workplace.

The results: A smoke-free bill was passed by the Texas House, but failed in the Senate in 2011. However, the anti-smoking bill made it further through the Texas legislature than ever before, and gained more support than in any previous effort. The 2013 Smoke-Free Texas campaign is underway for the 83rd Legislative Session.

Noble planned an email campaign so imaginative, so ingenious that it is the winner in the Best Email Marketing Campaign category of PR Daily’s Digital PR & Social Media Awards.

PR Daily’s 2012 Digital PR and Social Media Awards were presented by Synaptic Digital. Learn more about Synaptic Digital here (pdf).

Other results Noble achieved:

• In months, Noble built one of the largest, broadest grassroots movements ever in Texas.
• Its 100-plus email alerts had an open rate of 31.8 percent, 35 percent higher than the national average.
• Email alerts earned a 3–4 percent click-through rate, and 1.5–2 percent action rates (some emails got a 4.55 percent click-through rate and 3.35 percent action rates). All of these rates are unusually high.
• Email calls to action spurred more than 8,000 contacts with lawmakers by Texans.
• Noble’s emails doubled SFT’s supporters, from less than 14,000 to more than 27,000.

Noble knew it had to change minds on a massive scale in a state of almost 26 million citizens living in an area larger than France, Belgium, and Denmark combined. Here’s what the team did:

• Sent 100-plus email calls to action to SFT supporters, which were then echoed in social media, online advertising, the SFT website, earned media, phone banking, and direct mail.
• Engaged supporters by encouraging them to contact their lawmakers, write letters to the editor and op-eds, and tell their personal stories on SFT’s site.
• Enabled supporters to write emails to their legislators by clicking on a link taking them to a template letter they could edit and send directly to their lawmakers.
• Incorporated video and other enticing content within email alerts to keep supporters informed and educated throughout the campaign.
• Encouraged visitors to the SFT website to join the coalition to get updates on smoke-free legislation. An SFT Facebook page also had a tab to sign up for email alerts.
• Linked SFT’s Twitter account to the email alerts sign-up page on SFT’s website.
• Conducted direct mail campaigns inviting people to sign up for SFT email alerts.
• Used online software to profile supporters by analyzing their online habits in order to identify the most influential SFT fans, then called on these influencers at critical times.
• Exploited the website Change.org by sending nine emails to individuals who had signed up for email alerts on Change.org, and recruited 8,590 new SFT supporters this way.
• Sent email messages to audiences and local SFT leaders tailored by geographic location, political views, the anti-smoking political situation at the moment, and other relevant factors.

Want to get recognized for your hard work? Find out about Ragan and PR Daily’s award programs here: http://www.prdaily.com/Main/RaganAwardsPrograms.aspx

Topics: PR

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