South Carolina has some of the worst roads and bridges in the nation. The state is often the leader in the number of highway fatalities. It has the 4th largest highway system in the country and the 3rd lowest gas tax in which to fund repairs and upkeep. For decades the South Carolina General Assembly has refused to either raise the gas tax or reform how the state’s Department of Transportation is funded. The SC Alliance to Fix Our Roads (SCFOR) is a non-profit organization consisting of chambers of commerce and businesses whose mission is to bring about a change in how the state funds its roads and bridges. In April 2014 SCFOR engaged Push Digital to execute a digital campaign to change the narrative around the issue, build an active coalition of grassroots advocates and to influence policy decisions in the General Assembly.
Push Digital identified the main goal as building a critical mass of grassroots pressure and attention on legislators that would result in support for comprehensive reform and increasing the state’s gasoline tax from key elected officials. We chose a digital advocacy campaign specifically because of the growing segment of users aged 35 and up using the Internet for news, the speed at which information could be disseminated to the audience and the ability to quickly convert the audience into activists. Push Digital began by analyzing the existing message and throwing it away. The message before our involvement had focused on money only. It had failed. We developed a strategic message aimed at building people’s personal opinions about the condition of roads and bridges. We then developed a digital strategy that would allow them the chance to voice that opinion to others – including their elected officials.
- Grow an online grassroots coalition that would contact their legislators.
- Garner news media coverage that would amplify our message and bring more individuals into our coalition.
- Target multiple pieces of legislation to motivate our audiences to engage their legislators.
- Build a unique website with a strong call-to-action that gave supporters and easy way to contact their legislators.
- Educate voters year-round, even when the state legislature was not in session.
- Evolve messaging as the political environment changed, capitalizing on current events to maximize impact.
Perseverance and patience lead to success – enacting the first significant roads funding measure in 30 years. In three years, we moved an issue that was a low priority for voters in polling to the number one issue on voters’ mind. The issue went from an afterthought in the General Assembly to a must-pass bill. In addition to passing a plan that will have a positive impact for South Carolina for generations to come, we garnered tidal waves of grassroots support, news interest and demonstrated the power and effectiveness of digital advocacy in the South Carolina Statehouse.
- Grew Facebook Fans From a few hundred to over 27,000 fans in less than three years.
- Delivered 25,000+ emails to legislators just in 2017.
- Connected 4,000+ phone calls to legislators’ offices just in 2017.