U.S. Digital Response May 2020 - May 2021
U.S. Digital Response (USDR), a network of volunteer technologists, was established at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to address the increasingly evident and urgent gaps in government technology accessibility and to quickly deliver critical services, information and infrastructure to support the needs of the public suffering from the consequences of the intersecting health, employment and economic crises. Spitfire was hired by USDR to formalize the organization’s communications functionality and both provide and build capacity in media relations, creating content and strategy. Through the course of our partnership, Spitfire supported USDR in its move from a fledgling, start-up organization to a well-oiled, communicating machine. We enhanced USDR’s communications and marketing team’s growth into a strategically sound department, one that is deeply and efficiently integrated into the day-to-day operations and decision making of the organization
Starting with a series of recommendations for USDR to build strong relationships with existing donors and bring prospective donors into the fold, Spitfire also provided USDR’s communications and marketing team with high-level insights and messaging guidance to expand their COVID-19 response and 2020 election accessibility and voting rights work. We developed a thoughtful and comprehensive process for spokesperson preparation for news media and congressional testimony, as well as attracting earned media engagement. In addition, we provided strategic guidance for maximizing interviews and speaking opportunities to advance their core priorities, articulate their mission and gain partnerships and funders.
As our work with USDR deepened, Spitfire developed a consistent, multi-level messaging platform for USDR, bringing organizational language, webcopy, blog posts and talking points in line with their personality and values. This messaging now provides a flexible and consistent home base for spokespeople communicating in media and speaking engagements in the public interest tech field. Spitfire also led media and messaging trainings with USDR staff and volunteers; developed storytelling training and capacity-building for volunteers; and provided executive coaching for members of USDR’s leadership team, including its executive director.
Spitfire’s strategic counsel, effective messaging and capacity building all formed the basis of a successful earned media strategy. To best build relationships with high-impact reporters and outlets to reach target audiences, including potential volunteers, government partners and funders, the media strategy developed and executed by Spitfire resulted in substantial positive coverage of USDR’s work in a competitive media environment saturated, understandably, with health and economic crisis reporting. USDR’s nimble, fast and brilliant work was highlighted in prestige publications like The New York Times, Stanford Social Innovation Review, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, tech outlets like Government Technology, Politico’s Morning Tech, TechCrunch and Fast Company, and other national publications like Slate, Axios and Financial Times. In addition to USDR leaders, partners and volunteers quoted in numerous outlets, due to the relationships built with media and government partners, the organization garnered accolades including a 2020 Good Tech Award from The New York Times and a 2021 Top 25 Doers, Dreamers & Drivers honor from Government Technology.
To celebrate USDR’s first year of operation and growth from a volunteer start-up to an award-winning public interest tech powerhouse, Spitfire developed, planned and executed three well-attended virtual anniversary events: one internal and two public-facing. Working closely with USDR, Spitfire booked high-profile guests including government officials and well-known journalists, drafted runs-of-show and speaker scripts, ran tech on multiple webinar platforms and created presentation materials. Spitfire was honored to help USDR in its first year, supporting a scrappy, dedicated team to become a sustainable and effective organization that will continue to serve the public good well into the future, preparing and protecting us all from whatever digital crises lie ahead.