Winning Progressive Message & Strategy

The Website and Blog for Schmeltzer PR

Work Examples

Due to a time when the internet wasn’t ubiquitous, and because I didn’t consider then need for an online portfolio back then, some of my better work examples can’t be shared online.  So, here are just a few mini-case studies. Contact me if you’d like to go over some more of my work history.
 
Message Development
Communications Strategy
Organizational Image and Launch
Ad Scripting

 

Message Development

In 2007, as the war in Iraq became more and more of a disaster, President Bush continued to use the excuse that he was “listening to commanders on the ground,” regarding his strategy.  To me, it was the ultimate shirking of responsibility, yet no one was calling the President out on it.

Thankfully, a wonderful veterans group, VoteVets.org, had been taking on President Bush about Iraq, and working with the group kept me sane. Then, a number of retired brass approached the organization, interested in joining, because they also were opposed to President Bush’s handling of the war. The question was, “What should they say?”

I proposed a simple new narrative – President Bush wasn’t listening to his commanders on the ground.  Let’s turn this whole thing inside out. Working closely with VoteVets, we developed what we nicknamed “The Generals Ads,” which led the way for our new message.

Here’s a clip of cable news reacting to our ads and new message.  “Mission Accomplished.”


 

Communications Strategy

In the 2004 presidential campaign, I served as Press Secretary and Deputy NY Campaign Manager, for Howard Dean.  One of the most important narratives we had, in the media, was that the Dean campaign had grassroots power, and the other establishment campaigns did not.

This narrative could be threatened, in New York, if all of the campaigns were able to navigate the byzantine state ballot access laws.  Those laws are so tough, that only robust primary campaigns can qualify for the ballot, statewide.

Fortunately, we knew that while we would qualify for the ballot in every county, because we had grassroots energy, some of the major candidates would fall short, because they just didn’t have the volunteers to gather enough petition signatures.

Unfortunately, only an official challenge would trigger a review of petition signatures, yet all the campaigns agreed to not challenge each others’ petitions.  Other campaigns seemed to take advantage of that, turning in enough petition signatures in places that we knew they had no ground game.  In short, they were faking many of their signatures, confident that no one would challenge them.

With the image of our campaign being an unrivaled grassroots force threatened, I had volunteers head to select Boards of Elections and gather up evidence that other campaigns were fudging their petitions.  We couldn’t challenge ballot petitions, but there was no agreement that we couldn’t view each others’ petitions, and tell the media what we found.

Not surprisingly, we found a couple of the “major” campaigns had faked their petitions.  We gave the story to the New York Daily News, which performed its own review, and ran the following piece.

KERRY, DICK SHORT NAMES ON PETITIONS
New York Daily News, 1/12/2004

Sen. John Kerry and Rep. Dick Gephardt were allowed on the New York State primary ballot even though they did not file enough nominating signatures to qualify, officials said yesterday. The candidates took advantage of a secret political peace treaty hammered out by Democratic state chairman Herman (Denny) Farrell in which they agreed not to challenge each other’s petitions.

And the story goes on….


 

Organizational Image and Launch

On a number of occasions, I have helped launch organizations – helping a person, or team, take their idea, and turn it into reality.

 

Countable

When you think about it, there has been no simple way to learn about what bills Congress is considering, and quickly tell your elected officials how you want them to vote on those pieces of legislation – until now.

In 2014, I was fortunate that a new political app – Countable – approached me to help with their product launch.  To me, the app was amazing in its simplicity.  It was a one-stop shop for people to get a quick summary of bills being considered, and message their Senators and Representatives with how they wanted them to vote, with just one click.

I helped develop their message and pitch, and took it to the media.  The launch was wildly successful, getting the attention of the Today Show, The New York Times, Politico, TechCrunch, Wired, and more.

 

Sunlight Foundation

My first paying job after college was as the Communications Assistant, and later Communications Director, for Public Campaign, a campaign finance group.  Years later, I went back to my roots, when the former Executive Director of Public Campaign, asked me to help her launch a new venture, the Sunlight Foundation.

Sunlight was named after a quote from Justice Louis Brandeis:  “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”

And so, Sunlight launched with the mission of using new technology to help people shine a light on government and those who work in it.

As I looked through some of the early pieces the group was working on, one thing stood out above them all.  then-Speaker Dennis Hastert had pushed for a highway offramp to be built, leading to land he owned, which he then sold off.  Though reporting a finding like this might not ultimately be the kind of work the group was aiming to do, it would be just the kind of shot across the bow of the political establishment that they needed to announce their existence.

It was a success, and Sunlight jumped on to the political scene in a big way.  Here’s just a small sample of the major stories in local and national outlets that we received.

 

The Campaign for a New GI Bill

In 2008, I was proud to help The Campaign For a New GI Bill launch their efforts.  I developed the idea for the group’s logo, and helped promote their initial activities on Capitol Hill.  The group got off the ground fast, and gained quick traction and support.  President Obama signed the new GI Bill, soon after taking office.

A Marine veteran speaks in front of the logo I developed for The Campaign for a New GI Bill


 

Ad Scripting

This may be one of my favorite ads that I ever wrote.  In 2007, as casualties in Iraq continued to pile up, conservatives who had helped the Bush administration lie us into the war became extremely frustrated by the number of service members returning home to oppose the war.  Radio blowhard, Rush Limbaugh, was one of them.  In a call with a listener, he called those who came home and criticized the war “phony soldiers.”

Needless to say, this made a lot of veterans angry.  But, the question was, how to hit back.  To me, it had to be a gut punch, just as hard as anything Rush ever tried to throw.  And it had to make viewers just as angry with Rush as veterans were.

The result was this ad.  Even though it has been years since this issue arose, I still pump my fist a little, every time I view this video.

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