Established in 1984 by an act of Congress, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) works to recognize those officers who have been killed in the line of duty.
The actual memorial, dedicated in 1991, features the names of 17,000 officers killed since 1792. In addition to preserving the memory of fallen officers, one of the organization's goals is to generate support for law enforcement and to provide information that will promote law enforcement safety.
When NLEOMF heard about UK manufacturer Eidos' plans to release a video game called 25 to Life, which rewards players for killing police officers and using civilians as shields, it made plans to protest the game and the image of police officers it portrays.
"We're very much tied into the law enforcement network nationwide," says Bruce Mendelsohn, NLEOMF communications director. Its board of directors includes leadership from such groups as Concerns of Police Survivors, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, and Fraternal Order of Police.
With such a broad reach, NLEOMF knew about 25 to Life months before its release. "We developed a strategy so that we were positioned to respond as soon as the game came out," Mendelsohn said. Before the campaign even launched, it was clear the network of constituents would play a big part.
The main component of the campaign was a petition on NLEOMF's Web site designed to gather support for the opposition to 25 to Life. It included a "tell a friend" function that allowed those who "signed" the petition to pass it on to other people. NLEOMF's two-person communications department also conducted traditional media outreach, targeting national and regional media outlets. Because the story was highly visual, Mendelsohn says television was an important target. However, the effort also targeted several newspapers and radio outlets.
The team pushed Craig Floyd, NLEOMF chairman, out to the media as a spokesman on the issue because of his long history with the organization, as well as his visibility within the law enforcement community.
NLEOMF's opposition to 25 to Life garnered nationwide media attention, including segments on CNN's The Situation Room and Entertainment Tonight.
NLEOMF met its original goal of 17,500 signatures of the online petition in less than two weeks. It exceeded 50,000 signatures in three weeks. All told, more than 260,000 people have signed it, providing a 100% increase in Web traffic from this time last year. And because those who sign the petition also can sign up to receive the weekly e-letter, the number of subscribers increased more than 300% over the same period last year.
"Any time a reporter will search for violent video games, our name will come up on the top of the list, so they'll call us," Mendelsohn says. "We've positioned ourselves as the leading voice in this effort."
NLEOMF was to present the petition, as well as testimony, to a Senate committee hearing on violent video games Wednesday.
Ultimately, Mendelsohn says, the organization will use the attention it has received on the issue to increase awareness of NLEOMF and its mission.
PR team: National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (Washington)
Campaign: The Fight Against 25 to Life
Duration: January to March 2006
This is a classic example of a grassroots campaign that generated tremendous results. Working with only a two-person communications department, NLEOMF was able to become a leading voice in the national debate about violent video games by targeting the right outlets and using its vast network of law enforcement connections.
The success of the campaign has also helped NLEOMF's overall goal of generating support from those who would have otherwise not known about its mission. It also brought other, more family-oriented, organizations into the debate about this particular video game.