In preparation for the 2020 campaign season, the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) held deep listening sessions with diverse constituencies within our state, including Haitians, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Pan-Latinx. We were after those gold nuggets that could help us hypertarget these populations for our 2020 electoral work. 

The Puerto Rican groups — a large and coveted swath of the Florida vote — were especially excited about the $15 minimum wage ballot initiative, even though most had not heard that it would be on the ballot in November. A large number of Puerto Rican voters work for the hospitality and tourism industry, where wages are notoriously low. Most of these voters, especially those living in the I-4 corridor, would directly benefit from the passage of a $15 minimum wage. 

We decided to use this ballot amendment as a driver to the polls, especially for unmotivated or under-informed communities. Many of these voters were not familiar with the candidates —  including Joe Biden — but they had a clear and personal connection to raising the minimum wage. We knew that this amendment could really resonate with folks if we championed a message that they could see themselves in so we set about highlighting the stories of Puerto Ricans and others working in the service industry in Florida. 

I had only been the Communications Director for FLIC since April 2020, so I started connecting with the folks who had been carrying this campaign for quite some time — like Kofi Hunt, who led Fight for 15 in Florida — and soon found a vibrant and committed group of organizers ready to educate me on the issue and lend a hand on our digital campaign. I joined organizing calls and started brainstorming how FLIC could add value to the fight for a $15 minimum wage.

FLIC developed a comms-first strategy, including op-eds, radio and TV appearances, and social media outreach on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. We created a robust digital toolkit, which included images, videos, email language, and tweets. Due to time and bandwidth, we did not develop a field component, though our communications strategy was complemented by a robust field operation led by other groups, such as labor unions.

Latinx outreach in Florida is complex because we have big and important blocks of diverse Latinx voters. Each community needs to be approached differently, in a language familiar to them, and Mexican Spanish (the primary language used in American campaigns) is not necessarily it. While Florida does have an important Mexican voter block, the big prizes are Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Colombian voters. To reach as many voters as possible, our digital toolkit included versions in English, Haitian Creole, general Spanish, and Puerto Rican-specific Spanish.

Still, we struggled to get community stories. We were running a communications-led campaign, not a field operation. We needed integration with the field program to collect and promote the stories of impacted community members, but we joined the campaign late in the game and our staff and volunteers were already committed to other campaign work. 

Some of our other goals were also unrealistic within our short timeline. We had an op-ed strategy, but newspapers didn’t bite, and we weren’t getting the exposure we wanted on TV or radio either, as the news cycle was consumed with the presidential race. I started to hone in on what we could control: digital.

We decided to launch a YouTube paid campaign with high-quality videos. The videos featured face-to-camera organizers sharing stories about themselves or family members in English, Spanish, and Creole, and explaining how the passage of Amendment Two would impact them. We filled out the stories with high-quality B-roll footage of workers in front-line and hospitality jobs. We created unskippable ads and bumper ads. In total, our YouTube campaign garnered almost 1.5 million impressions in the state of Florida over just three weeks. On Facebook and Instagram, we ran both the bumper and unskippable versions of our videos along with image ads — garnering us 3.6 million impressions and sparking a lot of comments and community discussion.

In the end, the ballot amendment was approved by sixty percent of voters, the result of years of on-the-ground organizing along with digital campaigns like ours. The fact that Amendment Two passed — even as the state went red in the presidential race — makes clear that progressive ideas are popular. When campaigns invest in long-term organizing and meet people where they’re at with a message that they understand, we get results. 

In a perfect world, the Florida Immigrant Coalition would have joined the larger coalition sooner, organized longer, and highlighted more community stories. But when we saw that we would not be able to meet some of our larger narrative and messaging goals, we pivoted quickly. We honed in on a digital approach, creating relevant, timely, and nuanced content that was available for organizations all around the state to access and leverage. We had over five million impressions on our own channels alone in the last three weeks of the campaign and sparked online debates and conversations on the measure. In the end, with the last push of our campaign and others like it statewide, Florida won.


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