Mission ready: Convincing the U.S. military to adopt artificial intelligence

Mission ready: Convincing the U.S. military to adopt artificial intelligence

Mission ready: Convincing the U.S. military to adopt artificial intelligence

The Challenge
An artificial intelligence (AI) software startup sought to break into the defense sector with a goal of equipping the U.S. armed forces with its predictive software to increase military readiness, which was a key priority for the then U.S. Secretary of Defense. 

However, the company faced steep hurdles: a lack of awareness among public officials about the ability of–and urgent need for–AI to address military readiness; a byzantine and lethargic federal procurement process; and worst of all, the company’s fiercest competitors were already working with the armed services to outfit certain U.S. fleets with predictive software.  

Our Approach
Our multilevel public affairs campaign hinged on influencing the public debate by generating awareness of and support for AI in defense-industry applications with reporters, elected officials and defense policy think tanks and fine-tuning and translating the company’s briefing pitch from “tech talk” to “bureaucrat speak.”  

We devised a three-phase plan, starting with leveraging the company’s board members who had significant national security experience to make the case in the media for how AI can be used to increase military readiness and U.S. competitiveness. Our team pitched the leading defense and tech reporters covering federal policy to source our experts. Our outreach generated significant national news and trade coverage over the course of three months. Having helped to prime the national conversation, we placed company leaders at key roundtable events and thought leadership forums. 

As the dialog around tech-supported military readiness grew, Congressional policy makers began to follow suit, with a series of floor speeches, roundtables, hearings and white papers on the issue.

We partnered with the company’s government affairs team to brief key committees, members and staff on how its expertise could increase the military’s readiness without new equipment procurement, which yielded taxpayer savings and a faster implementation. The Congressional briefings proved successful, in part because Congressional staff were already aware of the issue’s importance and need to act given the wave of media coverage in the months prior, and it netted several congressional champions who urged faster approval of multiple pilots of AI software to increase military readiness. 

Proven Results 
In just three months after initiating our strategy, the U.S. Department of Defense awarded the company with a seven-figure contract to install its AI software on one of the service branch’s vehicle fleets to increase readiness. After the award was made, we worked with defense officials to announce the news in an exclusive in the Washington Post, which generated subsequent national and trade coverage and contributed to additional sales leads. A second branch of the military is now working with the company using its AI to increase readiness on some of its vehicles. 

Securing City of Chicago support for e-scooters

Securing City of Chicago support for e-scooters

Securing City of Chicago support for e-scooters

The Challenge
In mid-2019, the City of Chicago planned a pilot program to test whether e-scooters were a viable transportation option. The City set some of the most restrictive rules for e-scooter operations in the country, including a strict boundary for operating the scooters primarily on the city’s south and west sides in “priority zones.” To complicate matters, the City approved 10 e-scooter operators to participate in the pilot, making for an incredibly competitive market.

Established by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the final week of his last term, the pilot was not warmly welcomed by incoming Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Without the new mayor’s support, the e-scooter share pilot program’s viability was in question before it even began. Similarly, the Chicago public and the media remained dubious at best about e-scooters, having seen disastrous launches in other markets, such as Los Angeles, where images of e-scooters set on fire went viral.

E-scooter company Lime hired Culloton + Bauer Luce to influence the City’s new administration to maintain its pilot program and eventually make the program permanent while positioning the company as a responsible, standout provider in a crowded, competitive field.

Our Approach
CBL devised a three-pronged communications plan to highlight Lime’s safe riding reputation and its compliance with overwhelming support for the city’s equity goals. 

Safety: To break out Lime from the pack of e-scooter providers, CBL focused Lime’s launch day opportunity at the height of media interest to tout the company’s safety academy lessons and free helmet distribution. We also promoted safety events in every ward of the pilot zone in the program’s early weeks to encourage follow-through coverage on Lime’s safety record, and we promoted Lime’s free helmet distribution totals over the course of the pilot at key milestones.

Equity: To emphasize Lime’s commitment to the equity in access to e-scooters, CBL: 

  • Heavily promoted partner events with the nonprofit My Block, My Hood, My City that provided scooters in “equity zone” neighborhoods
  • Released community impact reports and job creation numbers for key neighborhoods with transportation advocacy sites and African American and Hispanic media 
  • Hosted joint events with key aldermen and secured hyper local media coverage

Third-Party Support: CBL garnered third-party support for Lime as a preferred operator and set groundwork for the pilot extension by: 

  • Enlisting key alderman, equity groups and community organizers to signal support for its program via op-eds and letters to City Hall   
  • Releasing poll results and traffic data demonstrating rider/community support for pilot and that scooters were being used as first- and last-mile transportation modes in transportation deserts

Proven Results
The execution of the plan resulted in over 80 media placements, including the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and POLITICO Illinois, and urban planning outlets like CURBED and Streetsblog.  

At the end of the pilot, the city announced it would bring scooters back in spring 2020, and public support for scooters grew over 7% from before launch to after the pilot’s completion. Majority support, including majority support from minority communities, allowed city leaders to pledge to continue piloting the program with a permanent program on the near horizon.