Since 1978, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) has fought for the legal rights of LGBT and HIV+ people in New England. We’ve worked with GLAD on three major projects in the last few years:
First, we ran GLAD’s social media strategy tied to the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality. We developed their social media strategy for organic and paid content during a 10-week period of heavy traffic and attention (as their Civil Rights Project Director, Mary Bonauto, argued part of the case before SCOTUS), resulting in 34% Facebook growth, 6% Twitter growth, and significant email recruitment that was a 247% increase over GLAD’s average email list growth rate!
Second, we made the most of a slim media budget to help GLAD amplify a powerful story of a recent discrimination case. GLAD helped a Massachusetts woman named Jackie sue Walmart (her employer) for sex discrimination because Walmart refused to extend health benefits for her wife, who has cancer. Because Jackie is a woman who married a woman, the couple faced $100k+ in medical debt.
While GLAD’s lawyers fought the case in court, we helped them win in the press by scoring touching stories in the Associated Press, USA Today, The Atlantic, NPR, ABC News, The Advocate, US News & World Report and a major 2,000-word feature in BuzzFeed.
Jackie, the Walmart worker, came to GLAD from the GLAD Answers hotline, which we helped GLAD brand and market a few years back.
For that third, and final, project, we created a new brand and a creative marketing strategy to promote GLAD’s legal information hotline to New Englanders. GLAD’s goal is to ensure that New Englanders are not discriminated against when they go to school, rent an apartment, or adopt a child – and for those who are being discriminated against, to connect those individuals to GLAD lawyers.
To uphold that goal, the organization runs a helpline for people in the community to call or email when they suspect discrimination or are unsure of their rights. The helpline is a wonderful resource, but results of a community survey in 2013 showed that only 1-in-10 LGBT New Englanders were even aware that the helpline existed. To overcome the lack of awareness, GLAD asked M+R to do an assessment and create a social marketing plan for promoting the infoline and converting more New Englanders to callers, particularly outside Eastern Mass.
The original name for the helpline – the GLAD Legal InfoLine – was intimidating for many would-be users who were nervous about the word “legal” or would rather email or text GLAD before picking up a phone. So we helped GLAD create a new identity for the helpline that removes those barriers; immediately shows that there’s a two-way conversation happening between GLAD and callers; and promotes other ways that people can get in touch with GLAD (like chat): GLAD Answers.
Our final social marketing plan wove together social media, advertising, partnerships, PR, and event strategies. The 12-month plan helped GLAD leverage their many assets across online and offline platforms in order to reach new people with information about the helpline AND convert those people to callers. For example…
Web Presence + Social Media. We learned through our assessment that people weren’t quite sure how to use the helpline, so we developed a new micro-site for the service that made it clear and easy for users (www.GLADanswers.org) and created a chat-bubble theme for all helpline messages that is friendly, relatable, and explains why and how people can contact GLAD Answers.
A Call-Out Effort. We believed that one of the most direct ways of reaching out to would-be callers was for GLAD to call them first. Using an automated call service and carefully selected lists, GLAD could call people in its target audiences about a recent development in LGBT rights (the DOMA ruling, the ENDA vote, the Obamacare open enrollment) and tell them to press #1 or visit GLADanswers.org for more information about their rights.
Advertising. We focused GLAD Answers ads on LGBT and alternative New England newspapers as well as national LGBT blogs that offered geo-targeted ads. We also included select indie movie theaters that host LGBT film festivals alongside social apps like Grindr to reach target audiences in unexpected but attention-grabbing places.
Partnerships. Our plan called for GLAD to partner with other groups four times per year to host a “Know Your Rights” webinar to broaden the GLAD network and have partners refer their members to GLAD Answers: AARP chapters for LGBT seniors’ issues, school PTAs for kids’ rights at school, and federal worker unions for LGBT federal benefit questions, for example.
Media Relations. Our discovery process revealed a strong correlation between GLAD media hits and usage of the helpline. To capitalize on the connection, the plan builds in proactive media moments for GLAD to insert themselves in the press by responding to breaking news and releasing reports ranking the issues the New England LGBT community cares about most.
Swag. We recognized that GLAD has a growing base of supporters who can be evangelists for the helpline. To give them something to do, we created swag concepts for GLAD to produce and drop off at community coffee shops or bars.
Visibility Events. GLAD often has booths at Pride festivals or school fairs. To raise the visibility (and memorability) of this presence, our marketing plan pushes GLAD to go beyond brochures. We proposed event set-ups like a branded rainbow water cooler (where people could gather to chat about rights), an operational phone booth that people could use to call GLAD Answers right there, and a “Lesbianade Stand” that uses a sense of humor and icy lemonade to stand out at hot summer Pride festivals.
GLAD launched the new identity and rollout plan, and reception to the new GLAD Answers identity has been a huge success. In the words of the client: “I can’t believe how quickly you got us and found that right balance of creativity and seriousness.”