Grassroots Advocacy Briefing from American Beverage Association President Susan Neely


Communications strategy and grassroots campaigns are key to the beverage industry’s ability to influence consumer attitudes, says Susan Neely, President of the American Beverage Association (ABA). She was part of a panel discussion at the Public Relations Society of America International Conference in Washington D.C. called “Shaping the Debate: Public Affairs Strategies and the Health Care Reform Bill.”

The American Beverage Association is the leading policy and public education advocate for the non-alcoholic beverage industry that employs nearly 220,000 people nationwide, generates more than $112 billion in annual sales, and has a direct economic impact of more than $136 billion.

Before leading the ABA, Susan Neely led public relations at the Department of Homeland Security, managing threat announcements, branding, public education campaigns, and crisis communications.

Grassroots Advocacy Insights from Susan Neely

1:00 Neely highlights the nature of her upcoming panel discussion at the Public Relations Society of America International Conference on grassroots advocacy and parts of a comprehensive communications strategy used by the ABA surrounding the recent Health Care Reform Bill.

1:30 Susan Neely’s political advocacy experience as a Congressional and gubernatorial staffer, and, for three and a half years, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

2:00 The motivation behind her transition from White House staffer to trade association representative.

2:52 An overview of the grassroots activist work done by the American Beverage Association, why Susan Neely enjoys the beverage industry’s grassroots advocacy, and her work in this leading consumer products industry.

5:08 Childhood obesity and the beverage industry: Susan Neely looks at the impact the nation’s growing awareness of childhood obesity has had on the beverage industry. One in three children born today will develop Type 2 diabetes, directly related to obesity.

6:25 Susan Neely reflects on using corn syrup as a beverage sweetener and highlights initiatives by the beverage industry to help consumers watch their calories. These include a broader beverage selection, an industry-wide calorie reduction averaging 21 percent over the last ten years and new beverage labeling. A discussion of beverages sweetened by sugar and those sweetened by corn syrup.

9:35 Coke Classic vs. Coke Zero and what led to the Coca-Cola Company’s decision to introduce Coke Zero.

11:09 Susan Neely responds to a UCLA Johnson Comprehensive Cancer Intake study that finds that pancreatic cancer cells use fructose to fuel their growth and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s grassroots activist campaign for a Soda-free Summer.

12:56 The use of social networking for digital grassroots strategy and its rising importance in lobbying. Communications strategists utilize social media to engage consumers in conversation and as an effective tool to influence buyer behavior.

14:31 Susan Neely predicts how social media will change the way traditional lobbying is done and how it already supports grassroots organizing and the public’s grassroots lobbying of the government.

17:11 How will social media influence advertising? Will the migration of advertising from traditional channels to social media outlets change how issue advocacy gets done inside the Beltway?

19:20 End

Photo by Jonny Caspari on Unsplash

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