Marketing for the Greater Good: Changing the Lives of Our Most Vulnerable Citizens
BY Bill Conn
June 7, 2018

At Scribewise, we make it a point to work with clients we believe in. In most cases, they’re innovators pushing new tech forward, healthcare systems breaking new ground or professional services firms changing the way business is done. Over the last year, we’ve been working with one special client called the Ability Network of Delaware whose cause is near and dear to our heart.

We’ll be unveiling a full-fledged case study at some point in the future on how we moved the dial for them through a multichannel marketing approach, but the news is just too good to sit on. So I wanted to spill the beans about the success now. If you’re working on a similar initiative, maybe you’ll be able to glean some tips, or at least inspiration, from our campaign.

Navigating Delaware’s “House of Cards” to Help People with Disabilities

We first started working with the Ability Network of Delaware (A.N.D.) last summer. It was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up, including a big audacious goal, political intrigue and the opportunity to support a good cause. We’d be living through our own little “House of Cardsin the great state of Delaware. OK, maybe not quite that cutthroat (actually, all of the legislators we met were lovely people), but it did mean navigating politicians with competing priorities.

A.N.D. is an organization that supports and advocates for 41 member organizations serving over 100,000 Delawareans: 80,000 individuals with disabilities and other life challenges, 40,000 parents, guardians and family members and the 5,000 staff members who support them.

Unfortunately, the situation for these organizations is dire. There’s currently a shortfall of over $40 million in the state budget to support the programs they run. This means they can’t pay their employees a living wage. In fact, many of these dedicated professionals take care of their clients’ every need and help them lead a fulfilling life in the community—only to wrap up their day and head to a second job to make ends meet.

That’s just not right. So we pitched in to make it better.

The Campaign: #YouKnowUs

There’s a saying in Delaware that residents are either “mated, dated or related,” which reflects just how connected everyone is in this small state. We built a campaign that dovetailed with this concept and called it #YouKnowUs. Many times, people with disabilities are marginalized and seen as “other.” It’s absolutely not the case: in Delaware (and everywhere, frankly), they’re our family members, friends, neighbors and coworkers.

The goal for #YouKnowUs was simple on the surface: Generate awareness for the issue with citizens in Delaware, rally them behind the cause and create positive pressure that legislators couldn’t ignore.

Getting to the goal wasn’t quite as simple; here are a few of the levers we pulled.

Social Media

The value of moving the dial on social was a no-brainer, since just about every legislator in Delaware is active on Facebook and uses their account to listen to constituents and the issues that matter to them. A.N.D.’s social presence was small and passionate, but not large enough to make an immediate impression. So we helped them crank it up.

We started gathering stories. We went to A.N.D.’s members and interviewed their staff about how hard their work is. We talked to their clients—the people with intellectual and developmental disabilities receiving the services—and learned how important these services are to them.

As one woman I interviewed said: “I don’t know where I’d be without them. Honestly, I don’t think I’d be alive.”

Pretty powerful stuff.

Those stories helped us engage Delaware’s citizens and got them to follow our page.

Media Relations

In Delaware, The News Journal (TNJ) reigns supreme when it comes to turning the heads of legislators. If you want people talking about your issue in Delaware, you have to have coverage in TNJ. We framed our issue during an editorial board meeting in fall 2017. Over the next several months, we helped the paper’s health care reporter navigate and understand the nuances and complexities of the issue. We arranged interviews. We provided source material. We wooed and cajoled.

The result: a spot-on story that landed on the front page right in the midst of Delaware’s budget season.

But that wasn’t our only focus. We also drafted and placed a series of op-eds from A.N.D.’s leadership and prominent figures at their member organizations detailing the heart of the funding issue.

Print Media

To support and further our earned media effort, we designed and delivered a full-page ad in the Sunday editions of the paper, putting faces to the #YouKnowUs campaign.

Radio Ads

We wrote and produced a series of three radio ads that rotated heavily on Delaware’s most-listened-to stations. The ads featured: 1) people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who thrived only because they received the necessary services, 2) providers who are woefully underpaid in jobs they are passionate about, 3) families who see firsthand the good that adequate funding can do and the dire situation they’ll face without it.

The Website

Realizing that the radio ads needed an easy call-to-action, we built to detail the issue and talking points for concerned citizens who wanted to call the governor and their legislators to make their voices heard on the issue. From concept to go-live the development, we designed and wrote the website in one week.

The Rally

Imagine the power of seeing hundreds of faces of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities on your walk into the office. That’s what we helped to mobilize for A.N.D., their members and the people they serve. The rally was held at Legislative Hall in Delaware and included speeches of support from the lieutenant governor, representatives and senators, concerned citizens and parents.

The news coverage went national, and hundreds of people live-streamed the event on Facebook.

The Results

In short, we helped A.N.D. and their providers secure an additional $4.67 million in budget for fiscal year 2019. It’s the first victory in a series of battles that will continue in the years to come.

We also hit a few significant campaign milestones: We increased Facebook followers by 638 percent, we facilitated meetings with legislators and influencers, and coverage of the story was picked up by several national news outlets.

But most of all, the biggest victory was won on behalf of the people who needed it most. They have a little more security knowing that they can continue to rely on the services that take care of their daily needs and help them be active members of their community in Delaware.

Let’s talk about growing your firm.

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