In early 2007, the oldest civil rights organization in this country was mired in controversy. Bruce Gordon, the president of the organization resigned due to perceived conflicts with the board of directors. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was at a crossroads with interim leadership and a great deal of bad press.
One of the new members of the board of directors for the NAACP, Dr. David Goatley, asked The Carter Malone Group, LLC (CMG) to assist the organization for four months on a pro bono basis with public relations. CMG represents Dr. Goatley’s organization the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission. We agreed to help them through their public relations crisis at their annual convention. The 98th Annual Convention of the NAACP was held July 7-12, 2007 at COBO Convention Center in Detroit, Michigan.
The Carter Malone Group was familiar with the NAACP and their president’s departure from the organization. We reviewed articles from national newspapers and listened to an interview with Mr. Gordon on the nationally syndicated radio program the Tom Joyner Morning Show. His resignation was very public and contentious. Mr. Gordon led the NAACP for 19 months. NAACP Chairman Julian Bond named the NAACP General Counsel Dennis Hayes, interim president of the organization.
CMG had several discussions with Dr. Goatley to gauge the pulse of the communications situation and board sentiments.
The NAACP was in the process of reorganization and they were downsizing. Their communications department was reduced to one employee, a communications specialist, Richard McIntire. There was no senior public relations person on staff.
Planning/Goals and Objectives
After being introduced to Mr. Hayes, the president of CMG scheduled a meeting at the NAACP headquarters to discuss the state of the organization and assess the communications needs. Deidre Malone met with Mr. Hayes on May 24, 2007. Mr. Hayes included Mr. McIntire in our meeting, and we discussed the status of their communications department. CMG shared with them ways that the firm could assist them on a short-term basis at no cost.
Our goals were to assist in generating positive media leading into the Convention and let the general public know that the NAACP has a strong interim leader in Mr. Hayes.
Our objectives were to attract national media coverage to the Convention and position the NAACP as a cohesive and relevant organization with strong interim leadership.
The audience was the general public and those interested in civil and human rights issues. We were also targeting individuals who might be affected by some of the key topics addressed at the Convention.
CMG created a strategy which assigned tasks per organization. CMG would be responsible for media credentialing, media tours, interview pitching, coordinating news conferences and writing daily media opportunities and news releases. Mr. McIntire would serve as NAACP staff liaison, supervise the media room and assist in coordinating media interviews.
CMG sent three staff members to the Convention to work the media room and assist with public relations. The team created the following media opportunities and news releases: main convention news release, “N” Word burial, presidential candidates attend convention, authors pavilion, Act-So winners, mortgage lenders lawsuit and universal health care discussion.
The entire media credentialing process was managed by the CMG. The staff was responsible for distribution of the credentialing requirements, receiving requests, creation and on-site distribution. We worked with local volunteers to make sure the process was a good experience for the media.
International, national and local media attended the Convention. CMG worked with them on-site to coordinate interviews with NAACP leadership and prominent guests of the convention. The media interviewed, Sens. Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton, Filmmaker Michael Moore, Rapper Master “P”, Kurtis Blow and others that week.
One of the highlights of the Convention was the symbolic burial of the “N” Word. CMG staff members were strategically placed at the beginning of the processional and on the location of the funeral to direct media and keep the process moving. CMG coordinated interviews with Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Church Of God In Christ Bishop P.A. Brooks and Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
All of the stories generated from the Convention were positive. No reporters asked about the departure of Mr. Gordon, and they had opportunities to interview Interim President Dennis Hayes and NAACP Chairman Julian Bond. CMG worked with the NAACP staff to make sure the news releases were posted on the NAACP web site immediately after release to the media.
The “N” Word burial and the presidential candidate sessions generated large media interests. Media outlets from around the world attended these events. CMG received a letter from Mr. McIntire, with the NAACP, thanking us for our contribution to the success of the Convention. As a department of one, Mr. McIntire was able to utilize the CMG staff as an extension of his team and was able to accomplish a major body of work in a short period of time.
The NAACP was so pleased with our work that they recommended CMG to the law firm partnering with them on the mortgage lending discrimination lawsuit. CMG was also asked to work with the NAACP on their 2008 annual convention.