The Ames Straw Poll is equal parts county fair, political convention, and Republican fundraiser. It is where party activists come to cast a vote for their favorite presidential hopeful and where candidates come to build momentum for their campaigns. Although winning the Straw Poll does not necessarily guarantee a caucus win or party nomination, a poor performance typically signals the end of the road for a candidacy.
In 2011, the Iowa Energy Forum (IEF) wanted to use the national attention generated by the Ames Straw Poll to build a coalition and shape conversations about the oil and natural gas industry with Iowans and presidential candidates. IEF is a community of concerned Iowa citizens dedicated to broadening public understanding and support for a balanced approach toward increasing energy supplies. To ensure their messaging was delivered successfully to target audiences in a limited time frame, IEF entrusted their campaign with the LS2group team.
In order to develop a conversation around the issue, LS2group produced the largest footprint at the 2011 Ames Straw Poll for IEF. Part of that effort was bussing over 200 IEF coalition members from across the state to attend the event. The main feature on the Straw Poll grounds was the IEF Igloo, which was a large, air-conditioned tent featuring interactive displays on hydraulic fracturing, the Keystone XL Pipeline, Canadian Oil Sands, and petroleum and natural gas-based products. There were also displays on alternative forms of energy, including wind, solar, and ethanol.
The IEF Straw Poll grounds featured an information hub, tweet-to-screen capabilities, Xbox tent, hydration station, Internet and smartphone charging station, and children’s area with inflatable slides. There were also celebrities on hand, including conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham, and Iowa wrestling legend Dan Gable. Through these efforts, IEF was exposed to 16,000 Iowa activists, recruited 4,000 new members to the organization, was featured in 1,800 tweets, engaged 13 Iowa elected officials, completed six media interviews, and gained valuable exposure with Republican presidential candidates.