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The FIRST STEP Act: A Case Study in Successful Advocacy

Here’s how we mobilized nearly 60,000 Americans spread over 24 states to flood the zone on Capitol Hill with letters urging for criminal justice reform.

How does a bill become a law? Sometimes it takes a digital advocacy campaign. Here’s how we helped the ACUF Center for Criminal Justice Reform generate massive grassroots momentum around a single piece of legislation that President Trump signed into law today.

Here’s how it began: The ACUF Center for Criminal Justice Reform knew Republican legislators needed some urging to prioritize criminal justice reform this year. We didn’t need to convince every legislator or every conservative – but we did need to persuade enough people of the urgency of the issue to create forward movement. With enough momentum, ACUF knew the bill could get across the finish line – so they asked us to help them grow a grassroots movement around the FIRST STEP Act.

How did we do it? We ran an agile omni-channel marketing campaign with two main phases: acquisition and advocacy.

Phase 1: Acquisition

First, we worked to build an audience composed of sympathetic constituents of our targeted senators. We ran a wide range of ad creative to entice conservatives to the cause.

President Trump and ACUF are working to make our neighborhoods safer

Once we got folks on board, we invested in deepening their commitment with an elaborate welcome sequence.

Phase 2: Advocacy

Next, we asked them to start emailing their legislators with different action alerts. But we didn’t stop there – we followed up with letter writers via text message, urging them to call their senator’s office, too.

As different legislators hardened or softened on the bill, we shifted and adapted our strategy. We focused our fire on the legislators that needed to hear from our activists in each moment – whether we were focusing on leadership to get the legislation to the floor, pushing persuadable senators to vote for the bill, or pivoting to target House members for final passage.

We used our signature advocacy hub, DriveAction, as the interface for this campaign.

ACUF CCJR Drive Action

Phase 3: Victory

The FIRST STEP Act is now written law, thanks in part to the political pressure applied by our activists. Over the course of the campaign, we mobilized nearly 60,000 Americans spread over 24 states. Those advocates sent over 114,000 letters to their legislators.

Here’s what we learned

When you build your audience the right way, they will stand up for your cause in a big way. Advocacy campaigns require an agile strategy that responds quickly to shifting political winds. Removing barriers to contacting a legislator with a seamless, multi-channel experience yields concrete results.

And it doesn’t hurt to have Kim Kardashian on your side.

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Phil Cox
Phil Cox
Gerrit Lansing
Gerrit Lansing
Gary Coby
Gary Coby
Ethan Eilon
Megan Foote
Megan Foote
Marty Obst
Marty Obst
Marie Sanderson IMGE
Marie Sanderson
Bob Busick
Erin Helms
Madison Morris Business Development Manager
Madison Morris
Richard
Ryan Lyk
Ryan Lyk
Gabriel Egan
Anfon Ha
Josh Mahan
Zach Stites
Alex Boedigheimer
Emily Karrs
Emily Karrs
Mike Chenderlin
Mike Chenderlin
Shelby Williams