For the better part of a decade, tobacco farmers and growers had been trying to secure a buyout of their tobacco quota. Without a coordinated message, the significant opposition from a number of different interest groups and the shear cost of the legislation made passage of tobacco buyout legislation extremely unlikely.
Members of our team helped develop and manage the strategic and tactical elements of a national public affairs program across 26 states designed to develop broad based support for a sensible new national tobacco policy. With the debate taking place in the middle of a presidential election cycle, it was critical that the issue secure bi-partisan support in addition to support among agriculture and health interest groups. Despite the perennial nature of buyout legislation, the need for a tobacco buyout was unknown to most members of congress. The campaign began as a very low-key educational campaign distributing information through the web, targeted TV and radio as in-district constituent briefings. As the election drew closer, our team helped launch a sophisticated earned media and third-party mobilization effort that focused on presidential candidates and members of congress in their districts.
For months, newspapers declared the prospects for a tobacco buyout dead. The campaign, however, resulted in more than 11 million media impressions and for every presidential candidate that visited a tobacco growing state—their support for the buyout became one of the first questions asked.
By the end of the year, the legislation was included as one of the key “must-pass” bills of that congress.