The travel industry was one of the earliest and hardest hit industries as the coronavirus outbreak reached the United States, with travel restrictions and cutbacks happening even earlier than most shelter-in-place recommendations. From the moment the Air Line Pilots Association heard that Congress was considering a bailout package, it knew it needed to activate its pilots.
As soon as word of a potential stimulus came out, Vanessa Kermick, Grassroots Representative at ALPA, set up a letter-writing campaign to activate the associations’ members.
“We have a very vocal set of pilots and they wanted to be included and have their voice heard,” Kermick said.
As negotiations continued to unfold on the CARES Act, the campaign evolved to include social media posts tagging legislators as well.
ALPA set up a “Write a Letter” campaign in Quorum for their pilots to engage their respective members of Congress. While the letter included ALPA’s legislative priorities for the bill, it was editable so that pilots could share their personal stories with their legislators on how coronavirus has impacted them.
This editable letter was critical as the audience of the campaign expanded beyond the pilots who are members of the association. While the main letter was pre-written from the perspective of the pilot, by making it editable, friends and family could participate and adjust the message to come from their perspective.
ALPA drove this engagement from friends and family of pilots by using Quorum to ease the process of sharing the campaign on social media. With Quorum Grassroots, ALPA created a workflow so that after a pilot sent a letter, they were immediately prompted to share the campaign landing page on social media, sharing that they just took action. This meant that the pilot’s personal network of friends and family could click the link and take action themselves, growing the community of ALPA advocates and exponentially increasing the number of messages Congress received.
While social media was a part of the campaign from the beginning as a way to drive more advocate actions, ALPA transitioned from sending letters to members of Congress to tweeting at those legislators when negotiations for the CARES Act moved into the weekend.
“We were going into the weekend and everything was shut down on the Hill for the most part,” Kermick said. “Staff assistants aren’t looking at letters on the weekend and legislators are negotiating all of this...that’s why I launched the Twitter campaign.”
Tweets are inherently more public than letters in that if a member is getting tagged in hundreds of tweets, constituents can see whether or not that member is responding, whereas constituents are unable to know if letters sit in an email inbox unread. This means that even on weekends, social media can’t be ignored.
ALPA used several different mediums of communication to blast the campaign out to their members, family, and friends including newsletter sponsorships, paid social media ads, prime placement in their association membership portal, and a coronavirus resource center on the ALPA website.
Using Quorum’s integrated email tool, Outbox, ALPA drove advocates to take action via email. First, Kermick sent out an all-member message for pilots to make sure they knew about the campaign. Then, Kermick sent messages to the Government Affairs chairs of each of the airlines the association represents so that those company leaders could drive action from their respective pilots. Pilots who heard from a trusted name they were familiar with were more likely to take action.
Across the two campaigns, ALPA drove over 150,000 messages to policymakers before the passage of the CARES Act—over 135,000 letters and nearly 15,000 posts on social media. How did this compare to ALPA’s typical grassroots campaigns? In Kermick’s words— “off the charts.”
“It has been insane,” Kermick said. “This has been by far one of the most successful campaigns we’ve ever launched. I think we had 10,000 people taking action in just 24 hours. It was by far the most intense response that we’ve ever had.
The CARES Act, which was signed into law March 27th, 2020, reserves $61 billion for the airline industry.