Case History - "Honk Fest"
Auto Body Association of CT


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Client:
Auto Body Association of Connecticut (ABAC)

Product: The "products:" (1) new legislation, and (2) state-wide auto body shops that are members of ABAC

Objective: To attract state-wide attention and new business for ABAC and its members; raise awareness of auto insurance issues with state senators and representatives; win support for new legislation at the General Assembly

Results:

  • Every television station in the state broadcast multiple stories about ABAC and its key issues. As well, every major newspaper published stories about ABAC initiatives. Op-ed stories were placed in daily newspapers. ABAC members were interviewed on TV and radio talk shows. Relevant trade publications ran repeated features.
  • In 2009, the legislature passed legislation proposed by this organization.
  • ABAC members saw a noticeable increase in business; this was measurable by a significant increase in the number of hits on the ABAC web site where consumers were referred to a repair shop in their area.

Tactics and strategy:
Beginning in the latter half of 2007, a campaign was launched to draw attention to an issue of concern to the client – auto insurance "steering." The campaign's highlight was an event held in March, 2008, dubbed "Honk Fest." Our efforts culminated in spring 2009 with the passage of new legislation. This program is ongoing.

We first secured the support of the Attorney General Richard A. Blumenthal by highlighting the potential for media attention for him. We arranged private meetings with the A.G. and with ABAC leaders to demonstrate the consumer orientation of the issue. [Since the beginning of this campaign, we arranged for the A.G. to appear on radio and television; for his office to issue press releases; and for him to conduct press conferences. Upon request, he also has reached out to his colleagues, attorneys general nation-wide, to garner their support for his position on the issue. He also recorded a public service announcement for radio on behalf of ABAC.]

We then initiated a letter-writing and telephone campaign to legislators. We assisted ABAC members, their employees and their families by providing them with suggested talking points and templates for letters, emails and phone calls, along with contact information for their particular representatives.

Prior to the "Honk Fest" we arranged for supplemental press conferences at individual body shops, highlighting consumer problems with specific insurance companies. Similar press conferences were held after the event as well. All received wide media attention.

To initiate "Honk Fest," we staged a press conference in the parking lot of the Hartford Convention Center.

A convoy of 75 tow trucks, horns blaring, left the Hartford Convention Center and paraded around the Capitol in Hartford, stopping traffic and drawing tremendous public and media attention.

The trucks were festooned with signs and banners sporting the ABAC motto, "It's your car. It’s your choice" and other slogans and messages. Mr. Blumenthal rode in the lead truck; many legislators gathered on the sidewalk to watch him wave.

The convoy drove from the Capitol to the offices of a car insurance company’s claim center in Newington. This location was chosen in part to draw attention from the suburban paper there, the New Britain Herald, and in part because the company was identified by the client as being one of the most aggressive about promoting the use of its "preferred" repair shops.

Here are some additional details of this event:

  • Pre-arranged for TV stations and print photographers to have key locations along the route.
  • Obtained State and Newington police escorts.
  • Earned coverage by all major TV stations and newspaper outlets.
  • Coordinated interviews, including on Connecticut Newsmakers (WVIT), and placed op-eds, including in the Hartford Courant.
  • With the coordination of the ABAC lobbyist, we assisted ABAC members in preparing speeches at legislative hearings.
  • Assisted with updating the ABAC web site.
  • Provided articles for the ABAC newsletter.
  • In each supplemental media event, to help secure legislative support, we brought in local state senators and state reps so they could get media attention as well.
  • To further bolster the ABAC’s image as a consumer-oriented organization, we arranged a seminar in May 2009 for nearly 100 first responders -- regional fire fighters, EMTS, police officers and public servants – to teach new strategies for rescuing crash victims from hybrid vehicles.

Media Samples: Click here

Articles:

Car insurance companies in cahoots with repair shops?
by News Channel 8's Jocelyn Maminta
Posted on WTNH web site Janury 17, 2008 5:20PM

Drivers Neeed Protection From Unscrupulous Insurers
by Thomas Bivona
The Hartford Courant - January 28, 2008

Rally Protests Steering to Insurers' Preferred Body Shops
Courant Staff Report
April 10, 2008

Association wants tighter auto insurance laws
by Jason Valle, Herald Staff
The Herald

Strengthen No-Steering Law
Editorial
The Hartford Courant March 14, 2008

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