Public Affairs: Lobby attempts to buoy Puerto Rico's statehood pursuit

Americans for Democracy is a group dedicated to promoting and lobbying for Puerto Rican statehood.

Americans for Democracy is a group dedicated to promoting and lobbying for Puerto Rican statehood.

Along with MWW Group, with which it has worked for several years, it looks for ways to raise awareness of Puerto Rico's quest to become the 51st state.

"Every opportunity we get to make Puerto Rico more like a state, we look to take advantage," says Bob Sommer, EVP of MWW. "Puerto Ricans are Americans, but are not treated as such."

When Crayola Crayons announced the "State Your Color" campaign, a contest designed to let Americans vote on certain crayons to represent each state, MWW learned that Puerto Rico was not going to be included. Along with Senate President Kenneth McClintock from Puerto Rico, who represents Americans for Democracy, at the time called Puerto Ricans in Civic Action, MWW set out to get colors that represented Puerto Rico on the official contest ballot.

Strategy

"Our goal was to intrude on Crayola's campaign," says Sommer. MWW wanted to place pressure on the company to include Puerto Rico in the contest. Sommer says the firm decided that the best way to do so would be to use both media and politics.

"From a political sense, we have always felt left out at the national level," says McClintock. "I felt this was a great way to raise the profile of Puerto Rico."

Sommer concurs that the strategy was ultimately to change the views about Puerto Rico as a state.

"The goal was not just the crayon," he says. "The goal was to highlight that Puerto Rico could be treated as a state."

Tactics

MWW and McClintock began with a media outreach effort that targeted communities in Puerto Rico, as well as in Puerto Rican communities in Florida, New York, and New Jersey.

The majority of the outreach MWW and McClintock did, however, was to Crayola itself, Sommer explains. Along with MWW, McClintock contacted Crayola executives at various levels of the organization. Sommer says Crayola did answer the concern, but the company noted that contest laws in Puerto Rico prohibited it from participating in the competition.

To get around this obstacle, Sommer says, the agency, along with McClintock, suggested that Crayola allow Puerto Rico to submit colors for one crayon without being entered in the contest. Instead of having Crayola customers vote on the color, company executives would ultimately have full authority to select the winner.

"We had to adapt our argument a little," Sommer says. MWW arranged discussions between Crayola and McClintock, and Crayola eventually agreed to the proposition. McClintock's office and MWW submitted a list of 20 color suggestions that could represent Puerto Rico.

Results

Crayola chose "Coqui Green," a color named after a melodious tree frog native to Puerto Rico. The color was included in the "State Your Color" box of 64-color crayons.

The contest winners were covered in various media outlets, and news of the Puerto Rico crayon was included in articles in The New York Times and the Miami Herald. Sommer says the media coverage was important because Puerto Rico was named along with official states like Texas and California, making it "victory by association."

Future

McClintock says he is trying to get Crayola to market the "State Your Color" box in Puerto Rico because it is only available to Puerto Ricans through the company's website.

MWW and Americans for Democracy are currently involved in efforts to persuade Congress to include Puerto Rico in the state quarter program, Sommer says.

PR team: Americans for Democracy (San Juan, Puerto Rico) and MWW Group (East Rutherford, NJ)

Campaign: Crayola Campaign

Time frame: April to October 2004

Budget: $200,000

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