This year, Senator Dave Cortese (SD-15) introduced SB 94, a dangerous proposal that would enable those convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole to petition the court for resentencing and release. If passed, the bill could allow the release of dozens of violent criminals into California’s communities, putting the public and law enforcement at risk.
PORAC’s Communications Strategy
To put a stop to this bill, the PORAC communications team organized a joint press conference led by Crime Victims United (CVU) and the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA) to express our collective opposition to SB 94 and to garner media attention around the issue just before it was set to be heard during the suspense file hearing. With this event, we sought to demonstrate support for crime victims, build an alliance with likeminded organizations in and beyond the law enforcement community, strengthen relationships with Sacramento leaders and stop SB 94. This also presented a unique opportunity for PORAC to showcase and lead with victims’ voices, which resonates with lawmakers more than law enforcement speaking out against a bill on our own.
On August 29, we held the press conference outside of the California State Capitol. The PORAC communications team rallied a broad coalition of support around the effort to join alongside CVU and CDAA, including Sacramento Sheriff Jim Cooper, Assemblymember Dr. Jasmeet Bains (AD-35) and leaders from the law enforcement community (CPCA, CSSA and CAHP), to present a strong show of force. CVU President Nina Salarno Besselman and crime victim Vanetta Perdue led the discussion of the negative impact SB 94 would have on the healing process of victims statewide — showcasing the emotional side of this issue and garnering significant media attention. Sheriff Cooper, Assemblymember Bains and Monterey County District Attorney Jeannine Pacioni also spoke to why this flawed bill is so dangerous.
The press conference was livestreamed on Twitter and drew a significant audience of over 560 live viewers and over 9,500 total viewers, including leading reporters, Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher and bill author Senator Cortese. In addition, the PORAC communications team hired a professional videographer to capture high-quality b-roll during the press conference to share with reporters immediately following the event and leading up to the suspense file hearing to maintain momentum.
Leading up to the event, the communications team developed materials to prepare speakers to deliver core messages and to ensure that key reporters/outlets were aware of the press conference, including a coalition letter, talking points, run of show, media advisory, press release and social media guide. The team distributed the media advisory three times leading up to the event and proactively pitched dozens of reporters to drive coverage. After the press conference, we also distributed a press release with quotes from each speaker and followed up with reporters. These efforts were very successful and led to:
- 165 articles mentioning SB 94 and Crime Victims United
- 147.09 million people in reach
- $2.35 million in publicity value
Coverage appeared in the top three Sacramento insider newsletters — “Capitol Morning Report,” Politico’s “California Playbook” and CalMatters’ “WhatMatters” — which elected officials, staff and influencers read each morning to get up to speed on the issues that matter before they start their day. Highlighted coverage included pieces from CBS 8 San Diego and The Mercury News, which led with victims’ stories to show why this bill would be so harmful. The communications team coordinated the development of both articles and connected the reporters with CVU and crime victim Vickie Petix so the stories carried our narrative.
This event served as a pivotal moment in shaping the narrative and building widespread support against SB 94. It also showcased PORAC’s inherent connection to the victims we serve and protect and helped us expand our partnerships with groups outside of law enforcement that share similar views on supporting victims and public safety. We plan to continue to work with CVU, CDAA and other likeminded organizations more moving forward to continue this momentum and show that law enforcement is far from alone on these issues. In addition, this event also helped to deepen our relationships with leaders and influencers in Sacramento by giving them a platform to speak in support of law enforcement and victims.
As mentioned above, the PORAC communications team also hired an Emmy-Award-winning videographer to capture additional content after the press conference to showcase how this coalition is coming together more broadly to ensure that legislators consider victims when authoring legislation that will impact them. Once released later this year, this video will help us continue to shape the narrative on how law enforcement is standing with crime victims and other likeminded influencers to improve public safety.