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Lincoln Strategy Group - Crisis Communications Campaign

 

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Company: Lincoln Strategy Group, Tempe, AZ
Company Description: Lincoln Strategy Group specializes in managing campaigns in both the political and corporate sector. Specifically, they've managed over 750 campaigns, both domestically and abroad across more than 15 different industries. Lincoln has worked on five presidential campaigns, multiple gubernatorial, senatorial, and congressional, and local campaigns at every level.
Nomination Category: Corporate Communications, Investor Relations, & Public Relations Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Communications or PR Campaign of the Year - Crisis Communications

Nomination Title: Save Our AZ Solar, PR - Crisis Communications

Tell the story about this nominated campaign since January 1, 2016 (up to 650 words). Focus on specific accomplishments, and relate these accomplishments to past performance or industry norms.

Lincoln Strategy Group specializes in Public Affairs/Crisis Management. For this nomination, we're highlighting one client - Save Our AZ Solar.

With the rise of rooftop solar popularity, Save Our AZ Solar has been facing increased pressures from monopoly utilities. As monopoly utilities favor utility-scale solar projects instead of residential solar applications, utilities have been applying rate-making pressure though legislative, regulatory and public tactics to eliminate viable rooftop solar policies. The rate making pressure is happening in states where there’s an abundance of sunshine and residential interest in managing energy consumption; the growing interest by consumers is threatening monopoly utilities to no longer be the only option consumers have in purchasing their own power. Arizona has 65,000 households with rooftop solar, is third in the nation for rooftop solar, and employs approximately 10,000 workers in the solar industry.

Our Solar ballot initiative was launched mid-April 2016. The Arizona Solar Energy Freedom Act fought to prevent discrimination against Arizonans use of solar in the energy sector.

We encountered many hurdles and rose to the occasion with precise execution. Here are a few of the actions we took and the metrics whereby we measured our success:

-Solar Advocates: Hired and trained over 700 solar advocates to use digital media via phone apps and iPads. Registered every operative with the Secretary of State. Principal ballot collection offices spanned six counties with around-the-clock notaries. In two weeks, we successfully collected approximately 60,000 signatures.

-PR Campaign: Managed and administered a robust campaign via digital ads including Facebook and placed ads, messaging and TV ad; website creation.

-Earned Media Campaign: Worked with various news outlets to have articles written which in turn helped highlight the issues.

-Legislative Campaign: Held five-day legislative campaign at the capitol, complete with mobile "speak to your legislator" headquartered in the state capitol parking lot. Over 5,000 patched-through phone calls and 3,000 letters were sent to legislators from solar supporters, solar installers, employees of the solar industry and environmental groups.

-Governor Intervention: By May 2016 the opposition insisted on legislative discussions to avoid a referendum potentially passing in November. Governor’s office intervened and called both parties to a brokered negotiation.

-Solar Celebration Events: Performed extensive outreach to the community to identify likeminded, solar-friendly local businesses and solar champions. In partnership with these advocates, we created “Solar Celebration” events to bring awareness to the solar cause across the state. 18 solar celebrations held since Summer 2016, with over 1000 visitors and 66 elected officials. The “Solar Celebrations” were a first-of-their kind grassroots/grasstops activity highlighting impacts the solar industry has on local and broader state economy. Many of the regional warehouse locations were visited by local and state officials, who were unaware of the impact the business was having on their local economy. The solar industry supports over 10,000 jobs, including many suppliers and vendors who might not otherwise see their businesses grow and flourish. Using these warehouse locations as the venue for the solar celebrations highlighted the important work of renewables, often to elected officials who were not aware of the direct and indirect impacts. The value of these ‘open houses’ was immeasurable to the impact they’ve had on policy leaders.

-Solar Friendly Candidate Elected: The candidate (Bob Burns) we endorsed and promoted through mail, digital, TV, and voter outreach, won as one of the elected Arizona Corporation Commissioners. Not only was he re-elected but he finished in first place by a significant amount: 7.7% more votes than Tobin.

-Other Candidates Concerned About Solar Issue: Tobin now concerned about being seen as “Pro-Solar”; Dunn also voiced an interest in working toward a long-term, solar-friendly solution.

-Monopoly Utility Company Made Concessions: Pinnacle West forced to disclose campaign funding to 2012 Corporate Commissioners. It's suspected that they heavily invested in anti-solar candidates. Considering the sway of public opinion to pro-solar and to remain influential in the community, Pinnacle West eventually co-opted our pro-solar campaign theme.

In bullet-list form, briefly summarize up to ten (10) of the chief features and results of this nominated PR program since the beginning of 2016 (up to 150 words).

Challenges we overcame and the impacts:

-Monopoly utility with dollars to influence the public and lobby elected officials. Save Our AZ Solar outspent by $1.8M but still proved successful with voters and elected officials.
-Complexity of educating voters on complex rule-making and regulatory policy changes, specifically that of net metering at the public utility commission level.
-Simultaneously attempting to qualify our pro-solar ballot and fight off an effort of the monopoly utility to place its own competing ballot initiative on the same November ballot.
-The speed needed to mobilize pro-solar voters and solar employees to appear in person.
-Creating and maintaining 18 Solar Celebrations over the course of six months, even though there was not an issue on the ballot.
-Since Arizona is third in the nation for roof-top solar, our pioneering pro-solar work would be influential for other states wanting to go pro-solar.