Coalition Management

Council for American Medical Innovation

In 2010, as the national health care debate was winding down and the economy was taking center stage, the Council for American Medical Innovation (CAMI) recognized a significant opportunity to link investment in medical innovation with economic recovery and U.S. competitiveness. Recent studies have shown that medical innovation will have a far-reaching impact in curing diseases, which will not only lower health care costs, but keep people in the workforce longer. In addition, medical research and innovation creates jobs that help stimulate local economies – as well as benefits other industries such as building and construction trades. On the heels of a successful launch of the coalition, CAMI turned to The Herald Group to capitalize on this opportunity to position CAMI as the medical innovation thought leader and impact the dialogue around medical innovation. This was accomplished through an integrated campaign including research initiatives, earned, paid and social media, grasstops and grassroots.

The Solution: We quickly became a strategic partner and coalition manager for CAMI, providing much more than purely communications counsel. At the outset, the team revamped the organization’s key messaging platform to center around the role medical innovation plays in both the health of Americans and the health of the nation overall. Throughout the course of this engagement, we built and implemented an overarching communications program for CAMI as well as specialized communications strategies for every CAMI event, speech or project to ensure the broadest possible coverage for the organization. Recognizing the need to make the issue of medical innovation more salient for the public and policy makers, we developed an online video testimonial and advertising campaign to put a human face on the topic, showing how investment in medical innovation is truly life saving. All communications efforts were designed to reach not only the media, but policymakers, regulators and credible third party organizations in order to further cement CAMI’s credibility and effectiveness as well as its ability to strategically recruit additional member organizations.

Results: Our team significantly increased earned media coverage of CAMI nationally and locally, including more than 50 op-ed placements in national and regional publications. The team managed the release of two CAMI-commissioned reports, one conducted by the Milken Institute and one by TEConomy Partners, as well as a national medical innovation symposium, all of which were widely attended by policymakers, the medical industry and media. Together, these activities positioned CAMI as the “go-to” resource for policymakers and the media. In fact, in mid-2011, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg turned to CAMI to develop recommendations and host listening forums for her and her staff on non-legislative reform options that could help alleviate some of the key regulatory obstacles facing medical innovation.

National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB)

Overview: In the Summer of 2009, The Herald Group was retained by the National Association of Ticketbrokers (NATB). As a small entity initially created for networking purposes, with an all volunteer staff and limited resources, NATB faced an uphill battle riddled with challenges as they sought to both mitigate negative legislation being introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Bill Pascrell (NJ-8th) targeting ticket brokers and the secondary market as well as organize opposition to the pending merger of Ticketmaster/Live Nation being considered by the Department of Justice. At the time, apparent allies to the broker industry such as StubHub/Ebay stayed publicly neutral on these issues, leaving the NATB as a relatively inexperienced organization to fight these issues unilaterally without a base of champions. The Herald Group was tasked with developing a public affairs and strategic communications campaign that sought to build a base of support for NATB’s positions on these issues, while additionally helping transform the perceptions about the secondary market and more specifically distinguishing NATB members as good faith and honest participants in this process.

Strategies and Tactics: The campaign The Herald Group implemented rested on three main tenets. First, engage and mitigate the negative legislation introduced by Rep. Pascrell (The BOSS Act). Utilizing local NATB Members from both Rep. Pascrell’s district and replicating the same process with the legislation’s co-sponsors districts, The Herald Group implemented a strategic communications campaign that targeted the legislators’ local media markets to build actual constituent pressure and cede the narrative the legislation was actually harming small business in the legislators’ home districts during a downward economy. A blend of op-eds, letters to the editor, local blog placement and mainstream earned media stories were utilized in addition to several earned media events in the respective legislators’ districts. Finally, national and “inside the beltway” media were engaged on the legislation from a targeted perspective to provide “air cover” to the government affairs professionals interfacing with the legislators and their staff.

The second tenet of the campaign focused on opposition to the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger. At the time, there was opposition from different pockets of influencers at random intervals; however there was no coordinated coalition or organization dedicated to voicing the concerns of brokers and other members of the public. As a result, The Herald Group recruited and developed a bench of champions and supporters and organized a coalition on behalf of the NATB that brought together brokers, consumer groups, anti-trust academics and other interested parties to bring one clear voice to the debate. While formed late in the merger process and with a shoestring budget, The Herald Group brought the coalition together under the banner of Ticketdisaster.org (now inactive) and utilized earned media, online communications, limited paid media, and on-the-ground events.

The third and final tenet of our engagement was to help educate influencers, policymakers and the public at large on the secondary market/brokers and to distinguish NATB members as small business owners operating with a strict professional code of conduct and leaders in the secondary market to dispel negative perceptions. The Herald Group revamped the NATB’s code of ethics to include a policy change that made members pledge to disclose if inventory being sold to consumers was on speculation or actual inventory on hand, conducted background and on-the-record briefings with national media such as: Time Magazine, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, and put a human face on the broker industry. These same tactics were replicated with local and state-based media positioning NATB as a thought leader surrounding news stories of sold out concert problems, ticket demand and small businesses generally. Additionally, a strategic communications campaign was created to highlight positive actions brokers were taking in their local communities via “NATB Gives Back,”, whereby local broker businesses would donate a portion of tickets annually to their local Ronald McDonald House and other charities.

Results: With a limited budget and an overwhelmingly negative public perception, NATB was able to educate key policymakers, targeted media and other thought leaders on the value of the secondary market and reputable brokers in general. Rep. Pascrell’s BOSS Act eventually subsided and gained no traction in Congress. In fact, through these public affairs efforts, Rep. Pascrell transitioned from attacking brokers and the secondary marketplace to appearing several months later at a press conference in Washington as well as an earned media event with a local NATB member in his District. The Congressman began publicly making the distinction between good faith secondary market business owners and non-NATB members who could engage in bad business practices. Added to this, the NATB has become a stronger voice and a thought leader in the mainstream media on stories involving the ticketing process.

Finally, while the Ticketmaster/LiveNation merger did indeed proceed with DOJ approval, the NATB’s organization of a coalition to oppose the merger provided a unified voice to the debate and was the first action of this kind that received widespread media attention directly resulting in the Department of Justice requesting three different meetings with the collation. Interestingly enough, now that StubHub/Ebay have become engaged on the issue of paperless tickets, they have replicated this playbook directly by creating the FanFreedomProject and have recruited (and provided funding/resources) the same consumer advocates utilized as a vehicle for NATB during the fight over the merger.

Crisis Management

Oriental Trading Company

In 2007, discoveries of lead in children’s toys resulted in a high level of public scrutiny over consumer products manufactured in China. As an established institution in the gift and toy industry, The Oriental Trading Company had a solid history of product safety and customer service. Regardless, the company understood that that reputation was not enough to protect the brand in the event of a major recall when spiked with heightened political and media attention. As such, The Herald Group was tasked with ensuring the company was prepared to weather this recall storm and maintain or enhance its reputation.

Objectives and Strategies: To prepare Oriental Trading for the immediate crisis as well as future events, The Herald Group quickly put a comprehensive crisis communications and perception management plan into action. Working closely with the Oriental Trading Company leadership and communications team, The Herald Group developed new messaging and relevant fact sheets as well as prepared the company’s key spokespeople for potentially aggressive media interviews. A list of supportive third party champions was developed and vetted to serve as media surrogates should the need arise. Beyond the crisis at hand, The Herald Group developed a robust crisis communications manual for the Oriental Trading Company that outlined the core crisis communications team, a checklist of tasks should a crisis occur and an analysis tool to determine what actions to take given the severity of the crisis. The Herald Group also served as the primary media contact during the fervor over lead contamination.

Result: Oriental Trading Company emerged from the lead crisis with its reputation firmly in tact. The few media stories that mentioned the company did so in a way that showcased Oriental Trading’s commitment to product safety through routine and thorough product testing and vendor evaluations. The company also implemented the crisis communications program developed by The Herald Group in order to be prepared for future events.

Walmart

Walmart was facing growing pressure from organized labor to unionize its workforce, which included the creation of several advocacy groups established solely to attack the retailer on a daily basis. Both nationally and regionally, labor advocates were seeking to tarnish the company’s brand, limit the development of new stores and impose legislative barriers impacting Walmart’s operations.

With a loyal customer base of millions, Walmart ultimately felt compelled to speak out and demonstrate the true benefits that the company provides to employees and consumers on a daily basis. To be successful, Walmart retained our firm to unveil the initiative and position the “Working Families for Walmart” organization.

The Solution: We executed a strategy that positioned a national steering committee made up of diverse community leaders to unveil the organization. Members of the steering committee included small business owners, homemakers, retirees, religious leaders and local activists. A national poll of consumer perceptions about Walmart was commissioned and released in tandem with the national launch. At the same time, several regional media and community outreach initiatives led by specific steering committee members were launched in targeted geographic regions.

The underlying strategy for these initiatives was to bring company employees and customers into the debate by allowing them a forum to tell their own stories about working or shopping at Walmart. Understanding that while opponents seemed intent on indiscriminately attacking the company to advance a political agenda, attacking workers, consumers and community leaders who overwhelmingly championed the Walmart would further turn public opinion against organized labor’s efforts.

Results: Underscored by the findings of the poll, “Working Families for Walmart” received significant national coverage upon its launch, including prominent print and broadcast commentary. Additionally, the regional outreach initiatives garnered enormous local coverage, helping to spur subsequent interest and lay the groundwork needed to build a sustainable grassroots network. The efforts and influence of the organization continue to be utilized today as part of several ongoing legislative debates taking place in Congress and state legislatures.

Grassroots & Grasstops

Pokers Players Alliance

In the Fall of 2006, there were almost 23 million people playing online poker in the United States, yet Congress passed a law that would make these people criminals for playing the game of skill they love on their own computers, in their own homes. The Poker Players Alliance (PPA), founded in 2005 to fight for the rights of poker players nationwide, quickly realized it needed to significantly increase its membership in order to position the organization as a powerful and legitimate advocacy organization in Washington, D.C. and state capitols.

Objectives and Strategies: The Herald Group immediately began to plan and execute a campaign to identify and mobilize online poker players to fight to overturn the prohibition and establish a licensed and regulated online poker industry in the U.S. Through earned media outreach to poker trade publications, a larger presence at poker tournaments such as the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, list acquisition and a host of other tactics, The Herald Group helped increase awareness of the PPA, communicated the benefits of membership and converted interested players into members. Additionally, the PPA had and continues to have extremely valuable assets in well known professional poker players – true celebrities in the poker community – who joined the PPA and called on other poker players to do the same. Over the years, The Herald Group has strategically used the poker pros for a variety of media, grassroots and advocacy purposes.

Results: PPA reached a milestone of one million members in April of 2008. While the number of online poker players has remained consistent over the past four years, the membership of the PPA has skyrocketed – from a few thousand in 2005 to 1.2 million and counting in 2010. PPA’s members have sent more than half a million letters and made thousands of phone calls and tweets to members of Congress urging support for poker and legislation to license and regulate the game. The PPA has hosted rallies in several states to in support of online poker with hundreds of PPA members attending each. The organization is now the clear voice for poker players in the United States and the first source reporters turn to for stories on the topic.

Progress is also being seen from a legislative perspective. On July 28, 2010, H.R. 2267, legislation that would license and regulate online poker, overwhelmingly passed out of the House Financial Services Committee with a bipartisan vote of 41-22. The tide is clearly turning in favor of a safe, regulated online poker market in the United States.

Walmart

Walmart was facing growing pressure from organized labor to unionize its workforce, which included the creation of several advocacy groups established solely to attack the retailer on a daily basis. Both nationally and regionally, labor advocates were seeking to tarnish the company’s brand, limit the development of new stores and impose legislative barriers impacting Walmart’s operations.

With a loyal customer base of millions, Walmart ultimately felt compelled to speak out and demonstrate the true benefits that the company provides to employees and consumers on a daily basis. To be successful, Walmart retained our firm to unveil the initiative and position the “Working Families for Walmart” organization.

The Solution: We executed a strategy that positioned a national steering committee made up of diverse community leaders to unveil the organization. Members of the steering committee included small business owners, homemakers, retirees, religious leaders and local activists. A national poll of consumer perceptions about Walmart was commissioned and released in tandem with the national launch. At the same time, several regional media and community outreach initiatives led by specific steering committee members were launched in targeted geographic regions.

The underlying strategy for these initiatives was to bring company employees and customers into the debate by allowing them a forum to tell their own stories about working or shopping at Walmart. Understanding that while opponents seemed intent on indiscriminately attacking the company to advance a political agenda, attacking workers, consumers and community leaders who overwhelmingly championed the Walmart would further turn public opinion against organized labor’s efforts.

Results: Underscored by the findings of the poll, “Working Families for Walmart” received significant national coverage upon its launch, including prominent print and broadcast commentary. Additionally, the regional outreach initiatives garnered enormous local coverage, helping to spur subsequent interest and lay the groundwork needed to build a sustainable grassroots network. The efforts and influence of the organization continue to be utilized today as part of several ongoing legislative debates taking place in Congress and state legislatures.

International/CFIUS

Toshiba Corporation

Overview: In 2006, the Toshiba Corporation of Japan entered into an agreement with British Nuclear Fuel Limited (BNFL) to acquire the Westinghouse Corporation for $5.4 billion. Headquartered outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with more than 5,000 employees, Westinghouse served as a world-leader in the commercial nuclear industry. Through the acquisition, Toshiba sought to expand its existing nuclear operations beyond Asia and Europe into North America and other regions. At the time, the Dubai Ports World controversy was just erupting in Congress. That controversy was based around the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) approval of the Dubai Ports World Authority’s bid to provide port management in six major U.S. seaports. Concerned that a similar controversy could erupt around a Japanese corporation’s acquisition of U.S. based commercial nuclear facilities and technologies, Toshiba engaged The Herald Group to devise and implement a strategic communications program to positively influence the CFIUS and political processes the company was set to face.

The Solution: The Herald Group created a customized positioning and messaging platform to mitigate any potential negative media surrounding the CFIUS review process and to garner sustained support for the acquisition among Toshiba and BNFL stockholders, U.S. policymakers, key stakeholders and local communities of interest. Additionally, an overriding national strategy that centered on defining a needed “nuclear renaissance” in America was developed to address the dual domestic goals of greater energy independence and increased environmental quality, further underscoring the positive aspects of the acquisition. In the process, Toshiba’s global role in providing safe, clean and efficient commercial nuclear energy solutions and services was amplified among targeted audiences.

Utilizing both proactive and reactive tactics, a coalition of local and national support was built by differentiating the public policy and regulatory implications of this specific foreign acquisition from more recent controversial transactions. Additionally, The Herald Group conducted select media briefings (locally in communities with BNFL/Westinghouse facilities and nationally) with print publications and broadcasters who held influence over key policymakers and other government officials, developed relevant messaging, mobilized third-party champions and worked directly with Toshiba’s corporate communications and investor relations divisions to prepare their executives for the highly politicized aspects such a transaction could potentially present.

Results: The acquisition was approved by all government and regulatory entities, including CFIUS and the European Union. Valued at $5.4 billion, Toshiba/Westinghouse is now the world leader in commercial nuclear energy. With a stronghold in Asia and Europe, the new company is already making headway in North America and is currently in negotiations with several different utility companies to design and build the first of potentially several new commercial nuclear power plants in the United States in over three decades.

Dubai Aerospace Enterprise

Overview: In 2007, Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (DAE) sought to acquire from The Carlyle Group both Landmark Aviation, the country’s second largest Flight Based Operations (FBO) network of private airports and Standard Aero, a leading aviation maintenance and repair company with facilities throughout the U.S. and Canada. The potential transaction would be beneficial to both parties in view of their respective investment strategies and existing operations, but was likely to face significant scrutiny in the lingering wake of the Dubai Ports World controversy. Additionally, legislation seeking to reform the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) process, which was a key element of the Dubai Ports debacle, was working its way through Congress at the time. The Herald Group was tasked with developing an integrated communications program to mitigate potential threats and to help educate select media on the legitimacy and benefits of the proposed sale.

Objectives and Strategies: The Herald Group developed and executed a broad communications program to support the efforts of those directly involved in the negotiations and the stakeholders tasked with presenting the proposed transaction to CFIUS agency representatives and targeted Members of Congress. The strategy was two-fold. The first component focused on ensuring that the parties would not only follow the letter and spirit of the laws governing the existing CFIUS process, but would also proactively incorporate the proposed reforms being debated in Congress at the time. Additionally, both parties sought to educate key Members of Congress with relevant committee jurisdictions or constituencies potentially impacted by the sale well in advance to ensure there were no “surprises.” The second strategic effort leveraged a positive byproduct of the Dubai Ports debate, namely whether the U.S. was indeed “open for business” via foreign investment as many, if not all, policymakers claimed. The sale of Landmark Aviation and Standard Aero ultimately was positioned as a test of this resolve. Essential to this effort was the collaboration between The Herald Group and the lobbying team and the establishment of key messages shared by both parties and the discipline with which they were conveyed to key audiences and decision makers. Throughout the implementation of these strategies, The Herald Group engaged influential individuals outside of the negotiating parties to serve as surrogates before the media, including former government officials and Members of Congress who worked directly with targeted reporters.

Results: The sale of Landmark Aviation and Standard Aero is now viewed as a blueprint by which future transactions should be managed through the CFIUS process. Major controversies related to the transaction were wholly avoided both in Congress and among the media. In fact, the sale produced overwhelmingly positive media coverage because of the communications process that was predicated on education and transparency.

Polling & Litigation Communications

U.S. Manufacturer

Operating in the global economy presents unique challenges and risks large global manufacturers – especially as it relates to litigation. While many companies and the law firms they employ use litigation research to better understand their challenges, few truly understand the depth of their risk, the variables across the globe which affect juror opinion and the need to develop effective communications strategies as a counter balance. One of the world’s largest manufacturing companies headquartered in the U.S. recognized this, and turned to THG Strategic Research to develop and execute an extensive jury research and communications study.

Objectives and Strategies: THG Strategic Research worked with this company’s internal legal team as well as local counsel across the U.S. to better understand the unique legal challenges and communications obstacles they faced. Accordingly, the team developed an extensive, in-depth juror research study in several key markets across the United States to best understand the geographic and demographic influences on public and juror opinion. Because of the complex legal issues facing the company and the numerous venues in which they faced litigation risk, it was apparent a one-sized-fits-all research strategy was incapable of yielding precise communications strategies on a national and local scale. THG Strategic Research had to ensure our client’s legal team understood the macro messaging as well as the more local, often nuanced, micro messaging. We helped create balanced and in-depth presentations for each venue. Our team took great care recruiting focus group participants who were representative of actual jury panels for each venue, coordinated presentations from numerous attorneys for each location and moderated insightful post presentation discussions with participants.

Result: Upon completion of the trial summary focus group presentations, our team of research professionals poured over the collected data and worked with the THG Strategic Research communications experts to develop detailed communications strategies, both national and local, based on the analysis of the data. This research and communications package was presented to our client and its team of local attorneys so everyone involved understood how public sentiment related to their litigation process, what obstacles existed and how to overcome those obstacles. As a result, the company’s team of communications specialists, inside counsel and local attorneys were better equipped and prepared to effectively communicate the company’s message to key audiences.

Strategic Communications & Issue Advocacy

Poker Players Alliance

In the Fall of 2006, there were almost 23 million people playing online poker in the United States, yet Congress passed a law that would make these people criminals for playing the game of skill they love on their own computers, in their own homes. The Poker Players Alliance (PPA), founded in 2005 to fight for the rights of poker players nationwide, quickly realized it needed to significantly increase its membership in order to position the organization as a powerful and legitimate advocacy organization in Washington, D.C. and state capitols.

Objectives and Strategies: The Herald Group immediately began to plan and execute a campaign to identify and mobilize online poker players to fight to overturn the prohibition and establish a licensed and regulated online poker industry in the U.S. Through earned media outreach to poker trade publications, a larger presence at poker tournaments such as the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, list acquisition and a host of other tactics, The Herald Group helped increase awareness of the PPA, communicated the benefits of membership and converted interested players into members. Additionally, the PPA had and continues to have extremely valuable assets in well known professional poker players – true celebrities in the poker community – who joined the PPA and called on other poker players to do the same. Over the years, The Herald Group has strategically used the poker pros for a variety of media, grassroots and advocacy purposes.

Results: PPA reached a milestone of one million members in April of 2008. While the number of online poker players has remained consistent over the past four years, the membership of the PPA has skyrocketed – from a few thousand in 2005 to 1.2 million and counting in 2010. PPA’s members have sent more than half a million letters and made thousands of phone calls and tweets to members of Congress urging support for poker and legislation to license and regulate the game. The PPA has hosted rallies in several states to in support of online poker with hundreds of PPA members attending each. The organization is now the clear voice for poker players in the United States and the first source reporters turn to for stories on the topic.

Progress is also being seen from a legislative perspective. On July 28, 2010, H.R. 2267, legislation that would license and regulate online poker, overwhelmingly passed out of the House Financial Services Committee with a bipartisan vote of 41-22. The tide is clearly turning in favor of a safe, regulated online poker market in the United States.

Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool

The Greener Electronics Council’s (GEC) Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) has emerged as a reliable and transparent yardstick in an increasingly confusing world of green IT procurement. While EPEAT’s record is laudable, it is not enough in today’s marketplace to ensure a dominant position in the procurement of electronics. With the launch of a new international EPEAT registry, GEC needed to begin to take the lead in developing a common global marketing approach to EPEAT that brings together subscribers and partners, and provides additional incentives for participation. As green positioning becomes more competitive among IT companies and international in scope, GEC was in a position to begin driving a common marketing approach to EPEAT and take the lead on the international green IT stage.

Objectives and Strategies: The Herald Group implemented and managed all aspects of the international registry rollout for EPEAT to help enhance EPEAT’s enterprise and emerging consumer brand in the media worldwide while communicating the contributions of participating companies and stakeholders that utilize the registry including Dell, HP, Apple, Toshiba and Lenovo. The objective of the launch was to clearly articulate EPEAT’s value proposition as the world’s leading green IT standard and indicator, strengthen EPEAT’s brand position and reputation within key technology, business and policy circles, create a steady drumbeat of global coverage that ignites a conversation on the importance of harmonized standards, aggressively position EPEAT and subscribing companies as thought leaders with reporters, end users and policymakers, and raise awareness among consumers globally of EPEAT’s overall value and efficacy.

Results: The Herald Group developed a full communications platform with compelling messages to tell the story of EPEAT to a global audience, partnered with subscriber companies to ensure the launch was mutually beneficial, and worked closely with key third parties and NGOs to communicate effectively with key audiences through the environmental and technology communities. Through select media briefings with influential reporters, EPEAT was able to effectively tell its story as a shining example of what’s possible with harmonized and transparent standards, providing the tools, channels and resources to help IT managers and end users become environmental leaders.

Information Technology Industry Council

With close to a half dozen technology trade associations in Washington, the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) began to look for ways to stand out in the crowd – not only among the media and policy makers but among its current and prospective member companies. The association prided itself on being more think-tank than advocacy organization, ensuring its staff members were true policy experts who had credibility, influence and contacts to affect actual change for its member companies. What ITI needed, however, was someone to tell that story to key audiences. Which is why they turned to The Herald Group.

The Solution: In order to stand out among the crowd, The Herald Group revised ITI’s core messaging by introducing new platforms and compelling news angles to advance the association’s legislative priorities and differentiate it from competitors. The team broadened ITI’s bench of spokespeople, providing media training to the majority of the policy and government relations staff so that they were comfortable speaking to reporters and thus enabling The Herald Group to establish them as the go to resource for the influential reporters on top issues in the industry. Additionally, the team raised the profile of ITI’s chief executive officer through strategic and thought-provoking op-ed placements and one-on-one reporter briefings to position him as a subject matter expert for future stories.

Results: Very quickly, ITI became increasingly and consistently contacted by the top technology policy reporters, either for on the record or background discussions. ITI’s presence in media stories increased tremendously and the organization led all other technology trade associations in media coverage on top policy issues in both 2010 and 2011. Over the same two-year period, ITI broadened not only its roster of spokespeople, but its portfolio of coverage on technology issues, truly becoming the voice for the technology industry in Washington.

Main Street Industry Alliance (MSIA)

Bringing together leading U.S. manufacturers, business groups and member associations, MSIA emerged as one of the foremost organizations representing the interests of non-bank entities and corporate treasury functions during the financial regulatory reform debate in 2010. Under the guise of mitigating “systemic risk” within the financial markets, Congress at the time considered legislation that would extend greater regulation and supervision over not just traditional financial institutions, but also non-bank companies engaged in broadly defined financial activities (i.e., managing risks through hedging, derivatives products, tools, swaps, etc.).

Within the initial House and Senate bills, hundreds of thousands of businesses in the manufacturing, retail and services industries faced direct supervision of a “systemic risk regulator” similar to large financial institutions, subject to punitive capital requirements even though such activities are ancillary to their overriding, non-financial activities.

The Solution: Following passage of legislation by the House of Representatives in December 2010, The Herald Group was tasked with developing and executing a targeted communications and third-party development program to help illustrate the potential impact of financial regulatory reform legislation on Main Street America.

The strategy was three-fold: First, aggressively position credible leaders (academics/economists, associations, businesses) at the local, state and national levels with compelling data, research and messaging before targeted policymakers and influencers via the media. Second, redefine the universe of affected stakeholders in both economic and human terms by diversifying the message, the messengers (industries, associations, employees) and the Main Street implications. Third, leverage the public’s anger and frustration, calling into question the practicality of including non-bank companies (and communities) in reform legislation aimed at Wall Street banks.

Results: In an expedited timeframe, The Herald Group successfully recruited a cross-industry group of prominent business associations and organizations to draw greater attention to the systemic risk issue and deliver a unified message to policymakers crafting the legislation. As a result of a coordinated and steady drumbeat of targeted media, research and lobbying activities, the Senate modified its original language to further narrow the definition of organizations that will be covered under the new regulatory structure. The final law included this language and non-financial companies were not included in the definition of “too-big-to-fail.”

Council for American Medical Innovation

In 2010, as the national health care debate was winding down and the economy was taking center stage, the Council for American Medical Innovation (CAMI) recognized a significant opportunity to link investment in medical innovation with economic recovery and U.S. competitiveness. Recent studies have shown that medical innovation will have a far-reaching impact in curing diseases, which will not only lower health care costs, but keep people in the workforce longer. In addition, medical research and innovation creates jobs that help stimulate local economies – as well as benefits other industries such as building and construction trades. On the heels of a successful launch of the coalition, CAMI turned to The Herald Group to capitalize on this opportunity to position CAMI as the medical innovation thought leader and impact the dialogue around medical innovation. This was accomplished through an integrated campaign including research initiatives, earned, paid and social media, grasstops and grassroots.

Solution: We quickly became a strategic partner and coalition manager for CAMI, providing much more than purely communications counsel. At the outset, the team revamped the organization’s key messaging platform to center around the role medical innovation plays in both the health of Americans and the health of the nation overall. Throughout the course of this engagement, we built and implemented an overarching communications program for CAMI as well as specialized communications strategies for every CAMI event, speech or project to ensure the broadest possible coverage for the organization. Recognizing the need to make the issue of medical innovation more salient for the public and policy makers, we developed an online video testimonial and advertising campaign to put a human face on the topic, showing how investment in medical innovation is truly life saving. All communications efforts were designed to reach not only the media, but policymakers, regulators and credible third party organizations in order to further cement CAMI’s credibility and effectiveness as well as its ability to strategically recruit additional member organizations.

Results: Our team significantly increased earned media coverage of CAMI nationally and locally, including more than 50 op-ed placements in national and regional publications. The team managed the release of two CAMI-commissioned reports, one conducted by the Milken Institute and one by TEConomy Partners, as well as a national medical innovation symposium, all of which were widely attended by policymakers, the medical industry and media. Together, these activities positioned CAMI as the “go-to” resource for policymakers and the media. In fact, in mid-2011, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg turned to CAMI to develop recommendations and host listening forums for her and her staff on non-legislative reform options that could help alleviate some of the key regulatory obstacles facing medical innovation.

National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB)

Overview: In the Summer of 2009, The Herald Group was retained by the National Association of Ticketbrokers (NATB). As a small entity initially created for networking purposes, with an all volunteer staff and limited resources, NATB faced an uphill battle riddled with challenges as they sought to both mitigate negative legislation being introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Bill Pascrell (NJ-8th) targeting ticket brokers and the secondary market as well as organize opposition to the pending merger of Ticketmaster/Live Nation being considered by the Department of Justice. At the time, apparent allies to the broker industry such as StubHub/Ebay stayed publicly neutral on these issues, leaving the NATB as a relatively inexperienced organization to fight these issues unilaterally without a base of champions. The Herald Group was tasked with developing a public affairs and strategic communications campaign that sought to build a base of support for NATB’s positions on these issues, while additionally helping transform the perceptions about the secondary market and more specifically distinguishing NATB members as good faith and honest participants in this process.

Strategies and Tactics: The campaign The Herald Group implemented rested on three main tenets. First, engage and mitigate the negative legislation introduced by Rep. Pascrell (The BOSS Act). Utilizing local NATB Members from both Rep. Pascrell’s district and replicating the same process with the legislation’s co-sponsors districts, The Herald Group implemented a strategic communications campaign that targeted the legislators’ local media markets to build actual constituent pressure and cede the narrative the legislation was actually harming small business in the legislators’ home districts during a downward economy. A blend of op-eds, letters to the editor, local blog placement and mainstream earned media stories were utilized in addition to several earned media events in the respective legislators’ districts. Finally, national and “inside the beltway” media were engaged on the legislation from a targeted perspective to provide “air cover” to the government affairs professionals interfacing with the legislators and their staff.

The second tenet of the campaign focused on opposition to the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger. At the time, there was opposition from different pockets of influencers at random intervals; however there was no coordinated coalition or organization dedicated to voicing the concerns of brokers and other members of the public. As a result, The Herald Group recruited and developed a bench of champions and supporters and organized a coalition on behalf of the NATB that brought together brokers, consumer groups, anti-trust academics and other interested parties to bring one clear voice to the debate. While formed late in the merger process and with a shoestring budget, The Herald Group brought the coalition together under the banner of Ticketdisaster.org (now inactive) and utilized earned media, online communications, limited paid media, and on-the-ground events.

The third and final tenet of our engagement was to help educate influencers, policymakers and the public at large on the secondary market/brokers and to distinguish NATB members as small business owners operating with a strict professional code of conduct and leaders in the secondary market to dispel negative perceptions. The Herald Group revamped the NATB’s code of ethics to include a policy change that made members pledge to disclose if inventory being sold to consumers was on speculation or actual inventory on hand, conducted background and on-the-record briefings with national media such as: Time Magazine, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, and put a human face on the broker industry. These same tactics were replicated with local and state-based media positioning NATB as a thought leader surrounding news stories of sold out concert problems, ticket demand and small businesses generally. Additionally, a strategic communications campaign was created to highlight positive actions brokers were taking in their local communities via “NATB Gives Back,” whereby local broker businesses would donate a portion of tickets annually to their local Ronald McDonald House and other charities.

Results: With a limited budget and an overwhelmingly negative public perception, NATB was able to educate key policymakers, targeted media and other thought leaders on the value of the secondary market and reputable brokers in general. Rep. Pascrell’s BOSS Act eventually subsided and gained no traction in Congress. In fact, through these public affairs efforts, Rep. Pascrell transitioned from attacking brokers and the secondary marketplace to appearing several months later at a press conference in Washington as well as an earned media event with a local NATB member in his District. The Congressman began publicly making the distinction between good faith secondary market business owners and non-NATB members who could engage in bad business practices. Added to this, the NATB has become a stronger voice and a thought leader in the mainstream media on stories involving the ticketing process.

Finally, while the Ticketmaster/LiveNation merger did indeed proceed with DOJ approval, the NATB’s organization of a coalition to oppose the merger provided a unified voice to the debate and was the first action of this kind that received widespread media attention directly resulting in the Department of Justice requesting three different meetings with the collation. Interestingly enough, now that StubHub/Ebay have become engaged on the issue of paperless tickets, they have replicated this playbook directly by creating the FanFreedomProject and have recruited (and provided funding/resources) the same consumer advocates utilized as a vehicle for NATB during the fight over the merger.

Third Party Management

Toshiba Corporation

Overview: In 2006, the Toshiba Corporation of Japan entered into an agreement with British Nuclear Fuel Limited (BNFL) to acquire the Westinghouse Corporation for $5.4 billion. Headquartered outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with more than 5,000 employees, Westinghouse served as a world-leader in the commercial nuclear industry. Through the acquisition, Toshiba sought to expand its existing nuclear operations beyond Asia and Europe into North America and other regions. At the time, the Dubai Ports World controversy was just erupting in Congress. That controversy was based around the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) approval of the Dubai Ports World Authority’s bid to provide port management in six major U.S. seaports. Concerned that a similar controversy could erupt around a Japanese corporation’s acquisition of U.S. based commercial nuclear facilities and technologies, Toshiba engaged The Herald Group to devise and implement a strategic communications program to positively influence the CFIUS and political processes the company was set to face.

The Solution: The Herald Group created a customized positioning and messaging platform to mitigate any potential negative media surrounding the CFIUS review process and to garner sustained support for the acquisition among Toshiba and BNFL stockholders, U.S. policymakers, key stakeholders and local communities of interest. Additionally, an overriding national strategy that centered on defining a needed “nuclear renaissance” in America was developed to address the dual domestic goals of greater energy independence and increased environmental quality, further underscoring the positive aspects of the acquisition. In the process, Toshiba’s global role in providing safe, clean and efficient commercial nuclear energy solutions and services was amplified among targeted audiences.

Utilizing both proactive and reactive tactics, a coalition of local and national support was built by differentiating the public policy and regulatory implications of this specific foreign acquisition from more recent controversial transactions. Additionally, The Herald Group conducted select media briefings (locally in communities with BNFL/Westinghouse facilities and nationally) with print publications and broadcasters who held influence over key policymakers and other government officials, developed relevant messaging, mobilized third-party champions and worked directly with Toshiba’s corporate communications and investor relations divisions to prepare their executives for the highly politicized aspects such a transaction could potentially present.

Results: The acquisition was approved by all government and regulatory entities, including CFIUS and the European Union. Valued at $5.4 billion, Toshiba/Westinghouse is now the world leader in commercial nuclear energy. With a stronghold in Asia and Europe, the new company is already making headway in North America and is currently in negotiations with several different utility companies to design and build the first of potentially several new commercial nuclear power plants in the United States in over three decades.

Dubai Aerospace Enterprise

Overview: In 2007, Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (DAE) sought to acquire from The Carlyle Group both Landmark Aviation, the country’s second largest Flight Based Operations (FBO) network of private airports and Standard Aero, a leading aviation maintenance and repair company with facilities throughout the U.S. and Canada. The potential transaction would be beneficial to both parties in view of their respective investment strategies and existing operations, but was likely to face significant scrutiny in the lingering wake of the Dubai Ports World controversy. Additionally, legislation seeking to reform the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) process, which was a key element of the Dubai Ports debacle, was working its way through Congress at the time. The Herald Group was tasked with developing an integrated communications program to mitigate potential threats and to help educate select media on the legitimacy and benefits of the proposed sale.

Objectives and Strategies: The Herald Group developed and executed a broad communications program to support the efforts of those directly involved in the negotiations and the stakeholders tasked with presenting the proposed transaction to CFIUS agency representatives and targeted Members of Congress. The strategy was two-fold. The first component focused on ensuring that the parties would not only follow the letter and spirit of the laws governing the existing CFIUS process, but would also proactively incorporate the proposed reforms being debated in Congress at the time. Additionally, both parties sought to educate key Members of Congress with relevant committee jurisdictions or constituencies potentially impacted by the sale well in advance to ensure there were no “surprises.” The second strategic effort leveraged a positive byproduct of the Dubai Ports debate, namely whether the U.S. was indeed “open for business” via foreign investment as many, if not all, policymakers claimed. The sale of Landmark Aviation and Standard Aero ultimately was positioned as a test of this resolve. Essential to this effort was the collaboration between The Herald Group and the lobbying team and the establishment of key messages shared by both parties and the discipline with which they were conveyed to key audiences and decision makers. Throughout the implementation of these strategies, The Herald Group engaged influential individuals outside of the negotiating parties to serve as surrogates before the media, including former government officials and Members of Congress who worked directly with targeted reporters.

Results: The sale of Landmark Aviation and Standard Aero is now viewed as a blueprint by which future transactions should be managed through the CFIUS process. Major controversies related to the transaction were wholly avoided both in Congress and among the media. In fact, the sale produced overwhelmingly positive media coverage because of the communications process that was predicated on education and transparency.

Main Street Industry Alliance (MSIA)

Bringing together leading U.S. manufacturers, business groups and member associations, MSIA emerged as one of the foremost organizations representing the interests of non-bank entities and corporate treasury functions during the financial regulatory reform debate in 2010. Under the guise of mitigating “systemic risk” within the financial markets, Congress at the time considered legislation that would extend greater regulation and supervision over not just traditional financial institutions, but also non-bank companies engaged in broadly defined financial activities (i.e., managing risks through hedging, derivatives products, tools, swaps, etc.).

Within the initial House and Senate bills, hundreds of thousands of businesses in the manufacturing, retail and services industries faced direct supervision of a “systemic risk regulator” similar to large financial institutions, subject to punitive capital requirements even though such activities are ancillary to their overriding, non-financial activities.

The Solution: Following passage of legislation by the House of Representatives in December 2010, The Herald Group was tasked with developing and executing a targeted communications and third-party development program to help illustrate the potential impact of financial regulatory reform legislation on Main Street America.

The strategy was three-fold: First, aggressively position credible leaders (academics/economists, associations, businesses) at the local, state and national levels with compelling data, research and messaging before targeted policymakers and influencers via the media. Second, redefine the universe of affected stakeholders in both economic and human terms by diversifying the message, the messengers (industries, associations, employees) and the Main Street implications. Third, leverage the public’s anger and frustration, calling into question the practicality of including non-bank companies (and communities) in reform legislation aimed at Wall Street banks.

Results: In an expedited timeframe, The Herald Group successfully recruited a cross-industry group of prominent business associations and organizations to draw greater attention to the systemic risk issue and deliver a unified message to policymakers crafting the legislation. As a result of a coordinated and steady drumbeat of targeted media, research and lobbying activities, the Senate modified its original language to further narrow the definition of organizations that will be covered under the new regulatory structure. The final law included this language and non-financial companies were not included in the definition of “too-big-to-fail.”