PR > PR Techniques

THE LOST CLASS

LEO BURNETT, Chicago / CHANGE THE REF INC. / 2022

Awards:

Gold Cannes Lions
CampaignCampaign(opens in a new tab)
Supporting Content
Case Film
Supporting Images

Overview

Credits

Overview

Why is this work relevant for PR?

After a school shooting in the United States, conversation around gun reform peaks. However, with the rapidly changing news cycle, that conversation quickly fades and nothing changes. We needed to generate widespread discussion without waiting for a national tragedy. So instead, with a carefully planned PR effort, we leaned into another event that the media would be discussing - graduation season - and brought gun safety to the top of national conversation during a time when it otherwise would have been quiet.

Background

Gun violence is a leading cause of death among children and teens in the US. Public support for common sense gun laws has gained momentum. But those efforts have been countered by groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA), which spends about $250MM per year on its advocacy programs, far more than all the gun control advocacy groups combined.

Our objectives centered around moving people from awareness of the issue to being an advocate for it. With no media budget, we needed to do something that would capture media attention, amplify the impact and provide a mechanism for people to become advocates for universal background checks. We wanted this awareness to build without having to wait for another tragedy to occur and knew that the conversation needed to expand beyond the Beltway and the hyper-polarized political discourse to bring the issue of common sense gun legislation to mainstream consideration.

Describe the creative idea

This year, 3,044 members of the high school class of 2021 didn’t graduate because they were killed by a gun. So we held a graduation ceremony for this group of students, which became known as The Lost Class. We then invited David Keene, former NRA President, and John Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime, to deliver the commencement speech. While they thought they were attending a dress rehearsal for a real graduation, they were actually speaking to the students who would never get the chance to cross the stage because of the work of these pro-gun activists. The stunt was featured by media on both sides of the political spectrum and sparked a nationwide conversation about common sense laws.

Describe the PR strategy

There was no media budget for this effort, so we needed our communications to grab the attention of the public and become part of the news cycle to get the reach this cause deserved. To accomplish that, we made the films of former NRA President David Keene and author John Lott giving their speeches – the pieces we felt would create most conversation – the core of the campaign. We planned for the films to be shared online and in the news to drive people to an online site that would then give more in-depth information on The Lost Class and gun violence in America, and ultimately direct people to our petition.

Describe the PR execution

We took a precise approach to media outreach, understanding the viral potential of the video series once it was published online. BuzzFeed broke the news, and then the story catapulted into the mainstream, which led to same day, investigative coverage on the Rachel Maddow Show. In a 14-minute segment, she detailed the campaign’s objectives and broadcast the harrowing creative to a national audience. Overnight, the campaign was covered in major ad trades and top-tier publications, including CNN, The Washington Post and The Hill.

Once the campaign had sparked a major cultural conversation, we turned our attention to working with various outlets that supported the cause to secure donated media. Because of the impact the work was having, we were able to amplify the reach with donated print, digital and broadcast time, each of which directed a wider audience to our petition.

List the results

We relied solely on donated media and achieved a massive amount of impressions – 1.4 Billion in total. BuzzFeed broke the news, which led to a same-day 14 minute segment on the Rachel Maddow Show to her national audience of 291,000 - worth an estimated $500,000 in free media. Overnight, the story was covered in top-tier global news, including CNN, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Hill, and more. A-Listers like Katie Couric and Demi Lovato spread the word on our behalf – without us doing any outreach which helped us to reach that mainstream audience we knew we needed to engage if this was going to work. We garnered 1.2 billion social media impressions; 9000+% increase in daily mentions of Change the Ref days after launch and 2161% increase over the first two weeks. In total, we got over 40,000 petition signatures. And we succeeded in driving the conversation about the need for background checks, achieving a 66% increase vs the previous week.

More Entries from Use of Events & Stunts in PR

24 items

Grand Prix Cannes Lions
THE BREAKAWAY: THE FIRST ECYCLING TEAM FOR PRISONERS

Social Engagement

THE BREAKAWAY: THE FIRST ECYCLING TEAM FOR PRISONERS

DECATHLON, BBDO BELGIUM

(opens in a new tab)

More Entries from LEO BURNETT

24 items

Grand Prix Cannes Lions
THE MISSING CHAPTER

Good Health and Well-being

THE MISSING CHAPTER

PROCTER & GAMBLE, LEO BURNETT

(opens in a new tab)