SAN FRANCISCO: A reactive, rather than proactive strategy helped to fell gay rights activists in California, PR pros said. In contrast, the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign in California used strong messaging, which played an important role in the proposition's 52% to 47% passing on November 4.
However, protests and rallies have taken place across the country, fueled by online grassroots organizing, with groups on Facebook and blogs like "Queers United" posting news of upcoming protests. The No on 8 campaign used social media leading up to the vote, but its defeat went back to the message, say communications pros.
"I found that both sides were using the same communications in different ways," Paul Dyer, MD of COi New Media, told PRWeek. He also wrote a blog post about the ways both sides used social media. "No on 8 was more successful in the way they used social media, with about three times the reach of Yes on 8. But Yes on 8 was using a better message."
Kerry Eleveld, political editor of LGBT newsmagazine The Advocate, mentioned how Yes on 8 was able to extend its message after elementary school students took a field trip to watch their teacher's lesbian wedding. Yes on 8 was able tap into fears that marriage between a man and a woman would be threatened by saying that same-sex marriage would be taught in schools.
No on 8 could have used the incident, which was organized by parents of some students, to show a more personal side of the campaign, Eleveld said.
Ethan Geto, president of public affairs firm Geto & de Milly, has worked on gay rights legislation, and said that going forward, the No on 8 side and LGBT community should promote messaging that "same-sex marriage is part of the package of rights and civil liberties," for the LGBT community.
These groups also need to have "stronger messaging and strategy to reach the black community," which turned out to vote for Barack Obama, but voted mostly in favor of Proposition 8, he said.
"Communicating the message of average gay and lesbian parents who are married and have kids and things like pensions and houses" should be a focus, added Eleveld.
Renna also suggested putting more of a human face on the issue in advertising and media.
Several California city attorneys are keeping the issue top of mind, by protesting in California, New York, Boston, and elsewhere, and filing a writ of mandate with the California Supreme Court to invalidate Proposition 8.
GLAAD said it is not yet commenting on Proposition 8 and referred PRWeek to others involved in the campaign. Groups behind Yes on 8 like Protect Marriage and No on 8 did not return e-mails and phone calls for comment, however they posted a statement to their Web site.
"It doesn't matter how many politicians line up to ask the court to overturn Prop 8," wrote Andy Pugno, ProtectMarriage.com attorney. "What matters is that the majority of the voters approved Proposition 8, regardless of opposition from many of these politicians. We are confident Prop 8 will be upheld on its own merits."