Best in Public Affairs 2017

United Airlines differentiated its bid from those of its competitors by proposing a package of flights from various parts of the country rather than solely from Florida.

Winner

Glover Park Group and United Airlines
United to Cuba

The thaw in more than 50 years of international relations with Cuba presented a golden opportunity for U.S. businesses, especially airlines. But the path to getting approval from the federal government to fly to the island nation required a deft approach because 13 airlines were vying for only a handful of slots to Havana.

United Airlines differentiated its bid from those of its competitors by proposing a package of flights from various parts of the country rather than solely from Florida. It hired Glover Park Group and commissioned research, eventually finding nearly one in three Americans had some interest in traveling to Cuba.

Responding directly to Department of Transportation demands that flights to Cuba "maximize public benefit," the airline demonstrated broad support from an array of individuals, including employees, customers, elected officials, and business and cultural organizations.

The team developed a campaign employing grassroots advocacy, owned digital and social platforms, earned media, and paid digital media, including social. It debuted the website UnitedToCuba.com to disclose information about the bid and began paid social campaigns. It also took out display advertising on websites that are well read by public officials, such as Politico and The Washington Post.

The result? DOT approved eight of United’s 11 flights per week, the highest percentage of any airline, including key daily service from Newark, New Jersey.

One judge complimented the campaign’s efforts by noting it did a "great job of elevating a national story, with real business outcomes."

Another noted that it was "a very methodical campaign using multiple tactics that led to an impressive result."

A third judge said the campaign constituted an "excellent use of both traditional and new channels to influence the debate around the issue and provide a compelling reason to choose United.


Honorable Mention

FP1 Strategies and Grocery Manufacturers Association
Building Support for a Breakthrough Bipartisan Achievement

In 2014, Vermont’s governor signed legislation mandating labeling certain foods made with GMOs, which presented a problem for the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Suspecting it would spike food costs, the group formed the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food. It also took advantage of significant public doubts about GMO dangers and launched a campaign to counter the law. President Barack Obama pre-empted Vermont’s law while creating national standards favorable to the coalition last July.

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