CRAWFORD, TX: The 24-hour media attention being lavished upon Cindy Sheehan as she stands protest outside President Bush?s ranch in Texas owes as much to the professionals supporting her as it does to the emotional impact of her story.
Fenton Communications is assisting Sheehan, the mother of a US soldier killed in Iraq, to earn media coverage for her vigil. TrueMajority, a nonprofit advocacy group created by Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben and Jerry's ice cream company, is paying Washington, DC-based Fenton from the $70,000 that the group has raised so far to support Sheehan's protest efforts.
"Fenton is helping her with straight-out media relations, such as interviews and juggling different requests," said Jason Salzman, president of Cause Communications, which handles media relations for TrueMajority. "She's tapped into feelings against the war that have yet to [be] widely disseminated in the media."
Soon after Sheehan began her vigil, she quickly realized she needed help handling the barrage of media requests, said Parker Blackman, deputy GM and MD at Fenton Communications. "We're just trying to help her create a little order out of the chaos and streamline the process for getting reporters to be able to ask her questions," he said.
TrueMajority has asked its members for donations twice to support Sheehan's protest. The first appeal in early August brought in $50,000, while the second appeal, which went out August 8, has generated $20,000 so far, Salzman said.
Sheehan, a resident of Vacaville, CA, plans to continue the protest until Bush agrees to meet with her to talk about her opposition to the war in Iraq or until his vacation ends on August 31. She founded Gold Star Families for Peace and first began her campaign against the war more than a year ago after her son was killed April 4, 2004 while serving in Baghdad.
Sheehan's action caught the media's attention because she traveled to Crawford "to confront the President on his front door," Blackman said. "And you have a White House press corps who is there. The president doesn't spend all day with them. And there's this very compelling story unfolding right there."
Fenton also worked with Sheehan to publicize candlelight vigils held on Wednesday in 1,672 US cities in sympathy with her action. When Fenton organized a press briefing on Tuesday to discuss the coming vigils, about 100 journalists participated in the teleconference, an unheard of number for a typical Fenton-managed press briefing.