AARP confused some members earlier this month when it launched an e-mail campaign using fake news reports to spark conversation about the future of Social Security, according to press reports.
The nonprofit sent 2.7 million e-mails on February 1 with real-looking news stories about seniors being forced from their homes after fictional cuts to the government program. Consulting firm M&R Strategic Services worked with AARP on the campaign.
The organization customized the e-mails by the recipient’s hometown to give the messages an authentic feel, said Jim Dau, director of media relations at AARP.
Barry Jackson, senior manager of the AARP’s grassroots program, which distributed the e-mails, said “various members and even some highly engaged members” had expressed confusion and concern about the campaign. He attributed the confusion to the fact that Social Security “is top of mind for many people.”
In response, AARP communicated with partners at the state level to respond to concerned members, but it has not communicated widely to the 2.7 million e-mail recipients.
“What we did is work with our state partners who might have been hearing from volunteers and with our call center that might have been getting e-mails or phone calls to answer any questions or comments,” said Jackson.
He added that the campaign “was part of our policy work and our advocacy effort.”
“We do send a lot of call-to-action e-mails to this list,” said Jackson. “People are accustomed to seeing us ask them to send e-mails to members of Congress or to write letters to the editor or to sign petitions or the like.”
The e-mail encouraged consumers to ‘like’ AARP Advocates on Facebook.
Jackson said the campaign has resulted in more than 5,000 “likes” on the AARP Advocates Facebook page, nearly doubling its previous count.
AARP has conducted previous spoof campaigns in the past, said Jackson. Before last year’s mid-term elections, AARP launched Jackphillipsforamerica.com, featuring a video of a fictional political candidate.
Jackson said that campaign was “a really fun, interactive way to teach people with some of the issues we were working on.”
Consulting firm M&R Strategic Services also worked with AARP on the Jackphillipsforamerica.com effort.