E-Mail Used to Push for Airport's Reopening

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A viral e-mail campaign by the Greater Washington Board of Trade to reopen Washington's Reagan National Airport after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks drew a 17 percent response rate last month.

"After the immediate fallout of the attacks on Sept. 11, Reagan National Airport was the only airport that remained closed," said Bill Lecos, senior vice president for policy at the Board of Trade, which represents businesses in Washington, Virginia and Maryland. "The fundamental call of the campaign wasn't [to] reopen Reagan National because it was costing us a lot of money, but that it was a monument to terrorism on the Potomac."

The Board of Trade worked with Grassroots Enterprise Inc., an Internet-based advocacy group run by Mike McCurry, press secretary under former President Bill Clinton, to send 5,000 e-mails to local businesspeople and those interested in transportation issues. Within the e-mail, recipients were able to compose and send a letter to President Bush asking him to reopen the airport. The WBOT said about 850 people sent the letter.

Lecos said the names were culled from the databases of the WBOT and its sister organization www.endgridlock.org, an advocacy group specializing in transportation issues. The organization also ran print advertisements in the Washington Post and The New York Times.

The campaign took less than a week to conceive, create and deploy, Lecos said. Print ads ran Sept. 25, a Web site went up Oct. 1 and the e-mails went out Oct. 1 and Oct. 2. The airport reopened on Oct. 4.

"Viral marketing helped it be so effective in so incredibly short a time," Lecos said.

John Joaquin, vice president of sales at Grassroots Enterprise, thinks there will be more of this kind of advocacy in the future.

"You'll begin to see people on the Hill re-evaluate e-mail as a means of advocacy," he said. "It definitely augments corporate lobbying."

The e-mail campaign was deployed using Grassroots Enterprise's Grassroots Multiplier advocacy management software that integrates traditional advocacy techniques with online technology such as e-mail.

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