Organizations bring national issues to local communities

As companies, trade groups, and organizations address federal policy issues in Washington, they are also communicating with policymakers and the public at the state and local levels.

As companies, trade groups, and organizations address federal policy issues in Washington, they are also communicating with policymakers and the public at the state and local levels.

Not only are states facing their own budget issues, they need to prepare for federal legislation on issues such as jobs, healthcare, energy and the environment, and financial services.

As people turn increasingly to online sources and top-tier, national outlets for news, many still rely on regional and local media to grasp the impact of a national issue - such as healthcare reform - on their communities.

A survey from Pew Research Center, published in March, reveals that 78% of Americans still get their news from local TV programs.

"There are issues that hit home and resonate with people across the country," says Ginny Terzano, principal and leader of the communications practice at Dewey Square Group. "Clients need to formulate their strategies to reach their audiences in a way that resonates best."

She notes that as issues have become more complex since the financial crisis and recession, companies and organizations need to communicate their national messages at a state and local level.

A multi-level strategy
The American Beverage Association (ABA), which represents companies such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, began its preparations early for its fight against a sugared-drink tax at the federal, state, and local levels.

To build support, the ABA is using messages that focus on how the proposed tax could affect individual consumers as well as jobs in their community, says Kevin Keane, SVP of public affairs.

"The federal battle was a big one - we were able to persuade Congress that it was the wrong way to go," says Keane. "[But] we knew, with state budget deficits and an active group of advocates out there promoting a beverage tax, that this would make its way to the states and to the cities."

The ABA is working in states such as New York and Pennsylvania, as state legislators weigh the idea of a tax to address state budget deficits and the rising healthcare cost of fighting obesity. It is also watching the issue in California, Kansas, and Washington.

Keane says the ABA has started programs in each state that include earned and paid media, events, and partnerships. In Pennsylvania, the organization is reaching out to talk radio. In New York, it has organized events with members of the Teamsters union.

"The important thing to do in local communications is to speak with a local voice," says Gloria Dittus, founder of Story Partners. "You need local constituents, local stories, local impact. That's what drives the message home with elected officials."

Christie Black, MD of Ogilvy PR Worldwide's Sacramento office, says the firm uses social media, local events and speakers' bureaus, partnerships with allied organizations, and sponsorships in state and local outreach efforts.

Black cites California as a state with a major impact on national issues, given its size, diverse population, and political beliefs. She adds that a statewide California program takes the effort and budget of a national one.

An informed public
As people delve into national policy debates, they become more knowledgeable on state and local issues, says Terzano.

"They're more aware of who their elected officials are - both back in Washington, as well as who's the head of their county council," she says. "From a client perspective, there is a real need to be more sophisticated on how you do your outreach and who your message is targeting."

National issues, local impact:

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner called for state officials to push for new regulations in the financial services sector, including the creation of a consumer financial protection agency

Many states are hard pressed to continue providing jobless benefits to the unemployed

More than 16 million people are expected to enroll in state Medicaid programs, following the healthcare law's passage

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