How One Association Earned an Advocacy Win

The National Association of Broadcasters’ campaign to preserve AM radio had a big push on the air—but savvy online organizing helped as well.‘

Last week a Congressional committee approved a bill that would require cars to have access to AM radio. The move comes a year after the introduction of the AM for Every Vehicle Act, and an even longer period of industry advocacy on its behalf. Some automakers had begun removing AM radios from electric vehicles, citing interference between AM frequencies and their motors. But organizations like the National Association of Broadcasters argued that AM radio was a crucial lifeline for Americans.

“AM radio delivers local news, sports, traffic reports, talk shows, foreign-language programming and other critical content to 82 million listeners a month and remains a key part of the emergency communications infrastructure,” said Alex Siciliano, Senior Vice President, Communications at NAB.

To convey that message as the bill worked its way through Congress, NAB naturally relied on AM radio stations themselves to get the word out. But it also developed a multichannel grassroots advocacy plan that ensured that support for AM radio would be spread widely, easily, and consistently. It launched a dedicated website, DependOnAM.com, with an associated hashtag, #DependOnAM.

Two weeks after the campaign’s launch in April 2023, more than 100,000 people sent emails to Congress, increasing to more than 300,000 by the end of the year. The push helped garner bipartisan support for the bill in Congress, and prompted Ford to announce it was scuttling its plans to remove AM radios from future models.

Within two weeks, more than 100,000 people sent emails to Congress.

But despite the broad support for the effort, legislation takes time and can get derailed easily in a contentious Congress. So part of NAB’s approach was to keep returning to the message in new ways. “We had a steady stream of news hooks to keep the campaign fresh,” Siciliano said, including pointing to emergencies like the recent Baltimore bridge collapse. “We also schedule regular monthly emails and texts to our grassroots that link to our Phone2Action campaign to ensure the momentum continues.”

On the online side, NAB worked with Quorum, an advocacy software company that helped develop tools people could use to contact legislators—and tools to gather meaningful data to communicate with those legislators as well. “You can highlight the messages to a member of Congress and say, ‘Hey, here are 1,000 people in your district who wrote you and here’s what they say—that’s pretty impactful,” said Quorum cofounder and CEO Alex Wirth. “You can also hold those messages to be delivered at a given time.”

That last feature can help keep the momentum of a campaign going. But the effort won’t work just through savvy timing, Wirth said; associations also need to continue messaging on a campaign to make participants feel like they’re part of the story it’s telling.

“Simply sending one email and saying, ‘Hey, we need you to take action on this’ is not going to have the same conversion rate as making an effort to educate advocates and say, ‘We have a central issue that we care about, making sure that we have AM radio in cars,’” Wirth said. “People will be much more inspired and willing to take more action, because it’s not just coming out of the blue but rather something that they really care about.”

The act’s passage through a House of Representatives subcommittee is a positive sign for the effort, and observers note that it’s likely to pass both houses of Congress soon. But until it crosses the finish line, NAB is keeping the messaging going. “We still have much work to do to ensure the bill passes through Congress,” Siciliano said. “We will continue to use all the tools we have in the toolbox.”

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