When Florida cracked open its state constitution for a once-in-20-year review, The Florida Bar had reason for concern. An appointed commission had authority to place proposed amendments directly on the ballot. Potentially, those changes could threaten the independence of the judicial branch or disrupt the balance of power among the three branches of government. Citizen awareness was low and interest was lower — but it would be many months before specifics about proposed amendments would be known.
So how do you get the public to pay attention to a topic that’s important but vague and lacking in the specific details or controversy that might make it newsworthy or socially engaging?
The Florida Bar engaged Sachs Media Group to work with its staff to tackle that challenge. The result was the public education initiative Protect Florida Democracy: Our Constitution. Our Rights. Our Courts., which aimed to raise awareness about the constitution revision process and educate voters about the importance of preserving an independent judiciary. The initiative and the team that produced it recently received prominent recognition from The Florida Bar — a President’s Award of Merit, at The Florida Bar Annual Convention in Orlando on June 15.
“This team was instrumental in defeating all proposals that were potentially detrimental to our judicial branch of government,” Immediate Past President of The Florida Bar Michael J. Higer said. “This resulted in no CRC proposals on the ballot that are contrary to the Bar’s established positions or adverse to the integrity of Article V (Judiciary) of the Florida Constitution.”
In the end, this initiative contributed to a 100 percent increase in awareness and garnered more than 68 million digital impressions. So, how did they do it? Sachs Media Group President Michelle Ubben said they leveraged some unusual tactics, including a comedic video, “Wake Up, Florida!,” historical impersonators of Alexander Hamilton and Frederick Douglas to appear at a news conference and perform in character, and digital content that made the process more personal and relevant to voters’ lives and drove them to the protectfldemocracy.org website.
It also used quotes and artistic line drawings of a diverse group of American historical figures, dubbed “Protectors of Democracy.” Renowned newspaper cartoonist Bill Day was engaged to create original line drawings of a diverse group of prominent and influential American leaders, including Alexander Hamilton, Thurgood Marshall, Susan B. Anthony, Sonia Sotomayor, and Neil Gorsuch.
The campaign also used Bar leaders to create a robust and active Speakers Bureau to deliver educational presentations to Floridians across a vast majority of the state. Through the joint efforts of The Florida Bar and Sachs Media Group teams, dozens of speakers were selected by The Bar, trained and given access to a digital Speakers Bureau kit, resulting in 88 successful speaking engagements and nearly 3,000 Floridians reached during presentations.
“Protect Florida Democracy was a shining example of how a fully integrated approach to communication can make a drastic impact on something as important as voter awareness and education,” Ubben said. “It’s been our great honor to partner with The Florida Bar to reach a breakthrough in awareness of the Constitution Revision Commission.”