The Consuming Industries Trade Action Coalition Steel Campaign
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Holmes Report
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The Consuming Industries Trade Action Coalition Steel Campaign

The Consuming Industries Trade Action Coalition (CITAC), founded in 1998, is a multi-industry coalition of companies and trade associations committed to open and expanded trade.

Paul Holmes

The Consuming Industries Trade Action Coalition (CITAC), founded in 1998, is a multi-industry coalition of companies and trade associations committed to open and expanded trade and the development of U.S. trade policies consistent with the needs of America's consuming industries. The organization represents, among other groups, farmers, retailers, equipment manufacturers, steel users and energy suppliers who import needed materials or parts and frequently face the negative consequences of trade restrictions.  
 
In the summer of 2000, The PBN Company joined the CITAC team to raise the profile of the organization in Washington, DC and to conduct a communications campaign in support of lobbying efforts to prevent passage of legislation and trade actions by Congress and the Bush Administration that would impose quotas or tariffs on steel imports.  We aimed to change the perception of U.S. government trade policymakers that steel trade issues are a battle between “U.S. companies” and “foreign companies.”  American companies and American workers are dependent on steel imports.  American companies which export their products also oppose trade restrictions, fearing retaliatory actions by U.S. trading partners. 
 
The campaign drives home the message that steel- consuming industries and others who would be impacted by protectionist measures (1) employ many more American workers than does steel industry; (2) are determined to have their voices heard; and, (3) have support from third party advocates (Washington “pundits,” elected officials and experts).
 
Challenge or opportunity
 
The PBN Company entered the debate facing formidable challenges and severe budget limitations.  Our client faced an experienced, well-financed foe – the domestic integrated steel producers – with thirty years worth of grassroots and lobbying experience in Washington.  On the free trade side, CITAC was just one of a number of groups attempting to raise their profile on this issue.  In addition, as a start-up organization, CITAC faced serious budget constraints, making highly effective but low-cost operations a must for The PBN Company. 
 
The opportunity presented was to show policymakers, the media and voters alike that free trade in steel is good for America.  If we were successful, CITAC would be established as a major force in the trade policy debate and would be able to prevent the implementation of protectionist government policies which could result in job losses at thousands of small companies across the U.S.
 
Research, planning, objectives
 
The PBN Company advised the client to complete an economic study that would provide evidence to support arguments that new steel import restrictions would devastate steel-consuming industries.  The study proved beyond a doubt that new restrictions on steel would harm the U.S. economy, American companies and American workers to a much greater degree than they would help U.S. steel producers.  According to the CITAC study, HR 808 would cause nine times as many jobs losses in steel-consuming companies as it would save in steel-making companies.  Consumers could face a $2.89 billion annual cost. 
 
Armed with this data, The PBN Company developed a media relations campaign aimed at Members of Congress, the Presidential Administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the International Trade Commission.  Our objectives were 1) to create a name and reputation for CITAC and its mission, leading to greater access to policymakers, as well as to new potential coalition members; 2) to educate the news media, policymakers, downstream industries and taxpayers about the negative consequences of steel trade restrictions; and 3) to either stop or significantly limit the potential damage from HR 808 and the Section 201 steel investigation.
 
Strategic approach
 
The PBN Company and CITAC were the first organized, entirely U.S.-based, private-sector opponents of the U.S. domestic steel industry telling the story of the devastating downstream effects that would result from new steel import restrictions.  We designed a comprehensive public affairs program to fight the domestic steel industry “mythology” with convincing economic data. 
 
For the greatest effect at the lowest cost, we chose an ongoing media relations program targeted at a core group of steel and international trade journalists.  This would give CITAC credibility as an organization, make it the preeminent spokesperson for steel consumers and establish it as a strong voice in Washington for free trade.  We planned to build membership as the organization became increasingly well-recognized and to increase awareness of CITAC’s policy positions among key audiences, including print and electronic media, trade publications, Members of Congress and other relevant policymakers. 
 
Having established CITAC as key trade policymaking actors, the government relations team would then take on Congress and the Presidential Administration to reach our ultimate goal of halting the imposition of new steel trade restrictions.
 
Campaign execution
 
The pro-active media relations program was a tremendous success.  PBN raised CITAC’s profile on steel trade issues and established the coalition as a major voice for consuming industries on numerous other issues related to free trade.   We accomplished this through establishing close professional relationships with journalists from major newspapers covering this issue, ongoing delivery of information to more than 100 journalists and creative, “out-of-the-box” pitching of stories to major media.  
 
We provided strategic communications support to CITAC’s leaders and, through local and national media interviews, raised the profile in the national news media of several small U.S. steel-consuming companies opposing the domestic steel industry’s efforts to restrict steel imports.  We re-developed the organization’s website, WWW.CITAC.INFO, making it a respected resource for consumers, policymakers and academics. 
 
In collaboration with CITAC, The PBN Company developed materials such as fact sheets, press releases, and position papers for use in media/information kits.  We monitored the national news media for news articles of interest to CITAC and provided a “quick response” mechanism to counter attacks by CITAC’s opposition, as well as to take advantage of media opportunities.  Through one-on-one interviews, press briefings, press releases and use of CITAC’s website, we worked daily to establish CITAC as the major U.S. voice for free trade in steel.
 
Summary of results
 
As a result of the “Stand up to Steel” consumer campaign, membership in CITAC has doubled.  CITAC has been established in the eyes of corporations, the news media and policymakers as one of the leading authorities on trade issues.  As a consequence, CITAC succeeded in introducing a bill in the House of Representatives that would improve the standing of steel consumers in trade cases (HR 2770).  As the preeminent representative of steel consumers, CITAC participated extensively in the Bush Administration’s Section 201 steel investigation, coordinating the appearances of 12 witnesses at the International Trade Commission hearings. 
 
CITAC spokespersons were quoted in more than a hundred publications and featured in two national broadcast news spots and three talk radio shows.  CITAC also was successful in gaining support from several Members of Congress who agreed to testify and/or submit comments on behalf of steel consumers during the investigation.  Over the course of the campaign, use of WWW.CITAC.INFO grew more than 100 percent, and, based on anecdotal evidence, we believe the press relies on it heavily to gauge consumer views on steel-related decisions and events.  HR 808 has made no progress in Congress.  CITAC has ample evidence that decision makers are giving thoughtful consideration to CITAC’s positions, in particular to the evidence it developed on the negative consequences of trade restraints for steel consumers.
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