Coming Together to Demand Arms Reductions

Message Testing
Public Opinion
Media Analysis

When working to ratify the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (or New START Treaty) in 2010, ReThink worked with the arms control and disarmament community to adopt a shared messaging strategy that defined why the treaty was critical. We identified national security validators and other key spokespeople to convey those messages, and we helped them write and place op-eds in the outlets that were most critical to influencing lawmakers.

The campaign played to each organization’s strengths: experts and groups focused on policy churned out compelling analysis; those with deep Capitol Hill connections provided timely intelligence, enabling  groups to mobilize their constituents and turn up the temperature on lawmakers; and groups focused on public communications worked together to drive a cohesive and deliberate message.

ReThink refined press lists throughout the campaign, allowing organizations to reach out to specific journalists to shape how the public learned more about the treaty. We monitored Twitter throughout the Senate debate, flagging opportunities for the campaign to respond to influential reporters, thought leaders, and lawmakers.

We weren’t the only ones working around the clock to win this policy battle. Well-financed opponents of arms control and disarmament engaged in savvy, targeted efforts to derail the treaty. But our collaborative efforts—the combined strengths and smarts of all of the groups across the sector—won the day.

And our post-media coverage analysis data showed it: When it came time for the Senate vote, positive, pro-treaty op-eds and editorials dramatically outnumbered opposition content in every state we prioritized—nationwide, there were 219 op-eds and 91 editorials published in favor of ratifying the treaty and only 89 op-eds and 20 editorials against it—and the treaty was ratified.

Success Story

Sometimes the most successful communication campaign is one where the conversation doesn’t happen as a big national debate. Using the right validators with the right message and engaging the target (in this case, Senators) directly can be more effective when the hyper-partisan elements of a higher profile national fight aren’t engaged.

Nathan Britton
Peace & Security