CAMPAIGNS: Community Relations - Widmeyer helps SSS appear cool

Client: Selective Service System (Washington)

PR Team: Widmeyer Communications (Washington)

Campaign: Reaching young men through school

Time Frame: January 2000 - December 2000

Budget: About dollars 350,000

The Selective Service System (SSS) provides a listing of men available

to fight in the event of a draft. Although all 18- to 25-year-olds are

required to sign up, in practice not everyone does, despite the risk of

losing federal education and job-training benefits.

So last year, Widmeyer Communications, which has been agency of record

for SSS since 1998, focused on institutionalizing registration in

secondary schools, before boys reached the required age.


The highest rates of noncompliance are found in border states that have

large numbers of immigrants and minorities, and states in which school

dropout rates are high. Widmeyer conducted focus groups and determined

that ignorance - not resistance - usually accounts for the failure to


The strategy was to reach young males and the people who influence them,

such as guidance counselors and teachers, through partnerships with key

associations and organizations involved with education.


Widmeyer vice president Scott Ward worried that education professionals

and organizations might harbor a post-Vietnam antipathy toward draft

registration, but instead many agreed to help, including the National

Association of Secondary School Principals, the American School

Counselor Association and the Center for Civic Education.

SSS sent a traveling display urging registration to meetings held by

partner groups, and these organizations notified members about the

campaign through their newsletters.

A May 2000 press conference at the National Press Club unveiled a state

report card on registration rates to help increase awareness.

Then-secretary of education Dick Riley urged young men to fulfill their

obligation to ensure they wouldn't cost themselves future educational


Lew Brodsky, director of public and congressional affairs for SSS, says

Widmeyer produced edgier materials than it had in the past to be more

appealing to young males. Registration kits showing a rock climber in

mid-leap were sent to 26,000 high schools and included a poster saying,

"It's not just a leap forward - it's the law."

Television PSAs showed guys in a diner and reminded kids that education

benefits and federal employment are tied to registering. Another PSA

featured a motocross bike in an attempt to catch the attention of young


SFX Motor Sports assisted with the PSA and allowed SSS to promote

registration at their events.

The agency urged educators to make it clear that registering was "just

one of the things a man's gotta do" when presenting the material to high



ABC World News Tonight, CNN Headline News, The Atlanta

Journal-Constitution, and Pittsburgh Post Gazette all covered the


A May 22 press conference in Washington, DC revealed that registration

among men turning 20 in 2001 had increased to 87%, up 4% when compared

to men turning 20 in 2000. Texas, California and Washington, DC are

among the areas that still have relatively low rates of compliance.


SSS is working to forge new partnerships with organizations representing


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