How We Did It: NYSPCC

Aiding Victims of Abuse

by Megan Kernan, Account Director

The Mission

There are few organizations out there like The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. NYSPCC is one of the oldest organizations in the world dedicated to protecting kids from abuse and helping child victims of it on the long road to recovery. It’s an honor to help the foundation get the word out about their crucially important mission.

In spring 2019, NYSPCC was brought on board to support the Athlete Assistance Fund, an NGO that makes counseling services available to any current or former USAG member gymnast who’s suffered sexual abuse within the sport.

In the wake of Larry Nassar’s systematic abuse of gymnasts, the AAF turned to NYSPCC as an impartial, expert third party to perform a full-program needs assessment. AAF also wanted to provide sexual abuse prevention training to athletes, coaches, and parents to ensure that teen and child athletes know how to protect themselves.

NYSPCC’s announcement of the partnership was to be made during a time of extraordinary mistrust of the sport of gymnastics. Accusations of corruption at USAG were rampant. There was a lot of anger that this could go on for so long without official action.

In this context, our challenge was significant. We wanted to ensure NYSPCC had the right platform to start a conversation about how its expertise in child protection and sex abuse prevention could bring real and much needed change. But we also had to make sure that the AAF and NYSPCC were viewed as the independent parties they are. We had to make sure their reputations were protected as they set out to help correct a deep injustice.

Setting Out

We knew that achieving this mission would depend on doing great prep work. In fact, we started prepping two months out, navigating the issues and coordinating with comms teams from multiple organizations, each of which had a significant stake in the announcement. For NYSPCC, this moment was akin to a national debut, so we focused intensely on preparation for national media and the interview requests we expected to come.

At the same time, we worked alongside Board members from both NYSPCC and AAF to get announcement materials completed and interviews booked, including with Alicia Sacramone Quinn, one of the most decorated Olympic gymnasts of all time.

Making sure our press lists were accurate, inclusive and robust was also key, so we included reporters covering the USAG scandal and sex abuse, along with culture reporters, philanthropy publications, and of course, sports reporters. While the coverage of the scandal allowed for us to communicate with many reporters that were already aware of the climate, we needed to make sure NYSPCC’s long-time expertise was rightly communicated.

The Results

Given that this was only an announcement of the actual work (which was yet to come), the response was considerable. People.com, Reuters, ESPN.com, Bustle and IndyStar (hugely important given that Indianapolis is a major center for the sport), all covered the partnerships. Crucially, the partnership and the work it aimed to produced was received in a positive light.

Just as importantly, we had a chance to introduce NYSPCC to media outlets and reporters as a true expert. That positioning, which reflects the very core of what NYSPCC is all about, would be significant to the success of this effort. NYSPCC was seen an authority stepping in to promote healing after a major scandal. The organization became a national expert source on these topics and will continue to do the work that made it such an essential partner for New York communities.

How We Did It: Ford Foundation

A study in empathy

by Kaitlyn Kurosky, Sr. Director @ High10 Media

The Mission

Our work with The Ford Foundation first kicked off around strategy for a white paper on disability inclusion in media and entertainment from disability rights pioneer and Ford Foundation Senior Fellow Judith Heumann.

If you haven’t heard of Judy, it’s worth taking the time to learn a bit more about her story. Over decades, she’s played a major role in developing some of the most important thinking about disability activism and has helped shape some of the defining legislation on the topic. Her great TED talk is here.

Creating our strategy for the report, we knew we’d have to lean into Judy’s own experience. After all, this wasn’t some dry policy paper but a deep dive into the critically important issue of how we portray—and consume portrayals of—disability in the media. 

We also had to make sure the report would be placed in front of the right audiences—namely, influencers, decision makers, and people interested in the ongoing conversation about equality, civic justice, and accessibility.

Given High10’s specialization in representing media clients, we knew we had all the tools we needed to get the report the attention it deserved.

Setting Out

Right away, we began to map out both the immediate press opportunities and the strategy around the launch of the paper. Given there would be multiple opportunities to engage with recent news and ongoing industry-wide conversations, we interviewed Judy extensively about her personal story, her experience as a disability rights activist, her views on the topic of media representation, and her vision for the future. 

To make sure we had a lay of the land, we mapped out conversations unfolding in the media about the topic and created tailored media lists that are essential to any outreach effort. 

The Result  

After initial conversations with key reporters and outlets focused on this type of coverage, we found the right home at HuffPost, with the outlet exclusively breaking the report. 

This gave us the jump start we needed to share Judy’s report with a wider industry audience. Working with Judy, we set up interviews with reporters to explain and further detail her life’s work. Judy was ultimately featured in other outlets including The Chicago TribuneNew York magazine, CNN.com and Brian Stelter’s Reliable Sources newsletter, both in relation to the report and her reaction to industry news at the time. Taking the outreach a step further, Judy also filmed an appearance on Bloomberg TV’s Equality Series.

Our initial interview with Judy also came into play as we helped her craft and place an opinion piece toward the end of our engagement. Responding to a major moment for the disability community, Ali Stroker’s Tony Award win, Judy’s response was featured in The Hollywood Reporter. You can read “What Ali Stroker’s Historic Win Means for Wheelchair Users Like Me” here

Another key aspect of this work was pursuing speaking opportunities and appearances for Judy. She already was well known on the speaking circuit, but the report allowed us to re-introduce her and offer a timely topic to organizers. As our work wrapped up in the spring of 2019, opportunities on the table included the ReelAbilities Film Festival in Los Angeles and New York, as well as a collaboration with Temple University in Philadelphia.