In February 2012, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman while walking to his father’s home from a local convenience store. A firestorm of protests erupted across the nation, and after weeks of protests and a petition with over 2 million signatures, the local police finally charged Zimmerman with attempted murder.
In response to their son’s murder, Trayvon’s parents created The Trayvon Martin Foundation, which assists families who have lost loved ones to gun violence; advocates for crime victims and their families; works to amend Stand Your Ground (SYG) laws; educates young people on conflict resolution techniques; and increases public awareness about racial profiling.
Hired to represent the Trayvon Martin family, their legal team and the foundation’s mission, we knew this would become a “trial of the century” story, and that this story would become one of the most significant civil rights cases in the last 50 years.
Our goals were to manage crisis communications; control the media circus pre- and post-trial; defend Trayvon’s reputation during the trial; build a media strategy that would help roll back SYG laws; craft a message the family and lawyers could deliver; and steer attention to the work of the foundation.
We managed thousands of media requests—figuring out our daily message, responding to attacks by the opposition, switching between proactive and reactive outreach, pushing back at media outlets that filed what we viewed to be racially charged stories, and making tough decisions on what outlets to work with. Much of our work related to the foundation’s mission. We took every media opportunity to negotiate a question about the foundation and ensure that its website and Twitter feed were credited on screen or linked to online.
The media campaign generated thousands of positive media stories across the country with well over 300 million media impressions for the family and the foundation in every conceivable major media outlet. The attention raised over $500,000 for the foundation’s programs.
Trayvon’s parents and their lawyer, Benjamin Crump, became national thought leaders on race relations, racial profiling, SYG laws and policing methods in communities of color, and Crump has become a national civil rights lawyer.