Trump Budget Targets Fight Back with PR

Arts, science and nutrition facing severe federal spending cuts under the proposed Trump budget are fighting back with a combination of old-fashioned and newfangled public relations, from seeding news stories to Capitol events to Twitter chats – and even a special song.

Arts, science and nutrition facing severe federal spending cuts under the proposed Trump budget are fighting back with a combination of old-fashioned and newfangled public relations, from seeding news stories to Capitol events to Twitter chats – and even a special song.

Arts, science and nutrition organizations that find themselves in the crosshairs of President Trump’s proposed federal budget cuts are turning to bedrock public relations strategies to fight back.

Unlike corporations, many nonprofit organizations are barred from direct lobbying, so they have to make their case indirectly through news stories, social media, events, email, petitions, videos and newsletters that inform and galvanize supporters.

Chris Daniels, writing for PR Week, quotes Joanne Carney, director of government relations for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), “We’re not a lobbying organization, but we are informing our members of what is happening. We are providing resources on how they can reach their members of Congress and speak out using effective communications tools.”

Those tools include making the organization’s CEO and key analysts available for media interviews and engaging members on digital and social media, including Facebook Live.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) are also on the Trump budget hit list. NEA's response has been to “educate and speak up publicly for the we do and arts in general,” says Victoria Hutter, assistant director for public affairs at NEA. “We’re not making a case for our survival, but for the value NEA provides to the people it has engaged.”

Much of that soft advocacy has come in the form of feeding the media. “The media wants data and stories,” explains Hutter. “They need data to illustrate the stories, and stories to bring life to the data.” The blending of storytelling and data shows up in NEA and NEH infographics and fact sheets, which serve the dual purpose of being shareable online.

NEH has launched a weekly newsletter that spotlights its grantees. The newsletter is sent to the NEH email list and cross-promoted on the organization’s social media platforms, which Daniels reports include Medium and Snapchat. Thelma DeBose, NEH group director of communications, says a video is under production “showing grantees immersed in humanities work to show the public what the humanities look like."

Support groups, such as the Americans for the Arts (AFA), are running full-page ads in publications such as The Hill, Roll Call and Politico with large readerships on Capitol Hill. National Arts Advocacy Day, cosponsored by almost 90 national arts service organizations, was held this week, bringing 700 arts advocate to the Capitol and White House.

Inga Vitols, AFA’s press and media relations manager, is overseeing outreach to 350,000 citizen activists asking them to voice support for the arts and humanities in communications with House and Senate members. Activists also are being asked to sign a petition to Trump. So far, Vitols says 110,000 emails have been sent through its Voter Voice tool.

Daniels quotes Vitols as citing the importance of “a robust research database of facts related to the economy, jobs and other practical reasons for support of the NEA.”

Funding for AFA’s efforts have come, Daniels says, from a gospel version of “With a Little Help from My Friends” performed by Broadway stars.

The Food Research and Action Center, which supports federal food and nutrition programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), is rallying anti-hunger advocates, holding Twitter chats with sympathetic organizations and conducted research. The group is seeking targeted press coverage in districts of congressional members on key committees that will influence the budget.