170 Million Americans campaign to escalate efforts

By Mike Janssen

Now that the 2012 general election is over, the 170 Million Americans campaign is preparing to rally support for public broadcasting by going into an amped-up “on steroids” phase, an adviser to NPR said during the Public Radio Regional Organizations Super-Regional conference in New Orleans Nov. 14.

Gov. Mitt Romney’s pledge to eliminate funding for public broadcasting, which he repeated during the first presidential debate, “created an opportunity for us to remind our fans that we need them,” said Liz Schrayer of Schrayer & Associates Inc., a Washington, D.C.–based firm that advises nonprofits on advocacy efforts. The campaign should seek to mobilize at least 1 percent of public broadcasting’s 170 million viewers and listeners, she said. Schrayer is a former national political director for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Messaging for the campaign will be honed through eight focus groups to be convened next month in four cities, Schrayer said. The campaign will also step up its efforts to engage participants on mobile and social-media platforms.

Viewers and listeners will be encouraged to communicate directly with lawmakers about why public broadcasting matters to them. Campaign strategists aim to shift to more two-way interaction with viewers and listeners, and away from a more one-way conversation, she said.

Station executives should identify board members who have connections to Republicans in Congress and use those ties to make their case to lawmakers, said Phil Anderson, a former Republican operative in Washington who now leads Navigators Global, a government relations and strategic communications firm.

“Politicians ultimately are public-opinion entrepreneurs,” Anderson said. “They’re going to go where the market is.” Some Republicans may privately support public broadcasting but won’t tell their peers in Washington, he said.

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