Following the Great Recession, the consumer finance industry faced new regulatory and legislative threats. Self-labeled “consumer advocacy groups” backed by competing financial interests advocated for reforms that, if adopted, would have shut down the small-dollar lending industry and eliminated an important financial option for millions of consumers.
VOX built a coalition to enable consumers to defend their access to credit and the right to choose the financial products that best meet their needs.
It was our job to find and engage difficult-to-reach consumers who had little experience with legislative advocacy. In the first nine months, we recruited 120,000 members to join the coalition using a combination of in-store and online recruitment. We developed new online recruitment techniques that, in one year, grew our coalition to over 225,000 members, representing every Congressional district in the nation.
We conducted opinion research about lending products to determine key messages that would resonate with consumers and lawmakers. These results formed the foundation for all aspects of our communication strategy.
We built a website that served as the hub of our communications and education efforts. It provided visitors with information about personal finance, tips and resources for good financial health and updates about federal and state legislation effecting consumers. We expanded communications into social media and developed a network of followers on Facebook and Twitter.
We equipped our website with tools that allowed us to strategically deploy our members around legislative threats and media opportunities. As many of our members used mobile phones as their primary source of communications, we also deployed a texting capability to mobilize members. We provided a forum for consumers to share their testimonials about the importance of this product via audio and text that were placed on an interactive map and shared with policy-makers.
The views of consumers have been heard through these and other tools. We generated tens of thousands of letters and thousands of phone calls to state and federal lawmakers, over 175,000 signatures for a petition to regulators and hundreds of op-ed placements, letters to the editor and online comments to articles.
The coalition retained an executive director, a customer of the products, to expand its ability to educate consumers, lawmakers and the media. We conducted townhall meetings with coalition members across the country to listen, educate and identify champions. The executive director also provided key testimony in targeted states and Congress, giving a face to and speaking on behalf of millions of consumers.