Crisis Goes Gold as Verizon’s Censorship of NARAL Text Call-to-Actions Gets NARAL More Attention than Ever

Over the past few years, text messaging has become a core organizing tool for advocacy orgs, even more so in Europe than it is here (yet). So it’s not surprising that NARAL Pro-Choice America put texting to work to motivate citizen advocates to contact their representatives on to protect choice.

What is astonishing is that (and how) Verizon Wireless rejected NARAL’s application for the short code required for texting:

VZW will not accept programs that are issue-oriented from lobbyist [sic], PACs, or any organization that seeks to promote an agenda or distribute content that…may be seen as controversial or unsavory to any of our users. 

Seems that because NARAL makes Verizon Wireless cringe, users of the service can’t get the text messages they have subscribed to. And, since texting is not legally protected by telecom legislation, Verizon Wireless censors because it can.

Happy ending though, and a great example of how a nonprofit that’s on the ball can turn a crisis to its advantage. NARAL (a Verizon Wireless customer) worked this story big time:

  1. Getting a story placed on the first page of today’s New York Times (they never would have been there otherwise)
  2. Putting its highly effective online organizing machine to work with an email campaign to Verizon Wireless promoted to its email list (got mine at 10 this morning) and via its Web site, most effectively targeting Verizon’s action as a censorship issue. NARAL generated 20,000 emails in two hours.
  3. Writing (and publishing on its Web site) a blistering letter to the company from NARAL president Nancy Keenan.

Result? By 11:25 this morning, when I combed the Times online for the censorship story, I found that at 10:30 Verizon had reversed its decision. Win-win-win for NARAL now able to text, better known than ever before and even perhaps piquing the interest of civil liberties supporters not previously involved in pro choice activism.

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Nancy Schwartz on September 27, 2007 in Advocacy, Case Studies, Nonprofit Communications | 0 comments
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