Subject Matter, SIA Win PR Week’s “Best in Public Affairs Award”
The "Built on Semiconductors” campaign raised awareness of a vital industry as policymakers worked to pass the landmark CHIPS and Science Act
In early 2021, a global chip shortage loomed amid a global pandemic and a precarious economy. The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) needed to highlight the importance of these engines of innovation, while drawing attention to the shortage as a pressing example of the critical need to boost chip production in the United States. As the stakes rose, a partnership with SIA that had focused on strategic communications and government relations expanded to other Subject Matter teams.
What followed was a year-plus collaboration between SIA and Subject Matter to build and execute a campaign designed to reach decisionmakers and stakeholders from coast to coast. The “Built on Semiconductors” campaign, first launched in summer 2021, culminated in the signing of the CHIPS and Science Act into law in August 2022, repositioning a homegrown American industry for expansion and strengthening the United States’ competitive edge.
“It’s been a long time since we passed manufacturing policy like the CHIPS and Science Act in the United States, and that’s a major victory for SIA,” says Bill Ghent, from Subject Matter’s government relations team. “When we first started this campaign, the semiconductors issue wasn’t front and center of the administration’s agenda. This campaign, building off the momentum of the legislation, helped put it there.”
“What started out as aspirational became real. It’s a very big deal,” he adds.
Creating a cohesive message required being expert communicators and great collaborators — both with SIA and within Subject Matter itself.
Subject Matter’s partnership with SIA began years before 2021, including creative and strategic communications support, which laid the foundation that would eventually serve the “Built on Semiconductors” work. Thanks to an established relationship of trust, the campaign was able to pair SIA’s clearly defined vision with the nimbleness needed to shift and respond to an ever-changing landscape on Capitol Hill.
“We had built such a strong partnership with SIA over the years that allowed us all to move so quickly since we had such an understanding of their messaging and issues that we transferred to other teams as more tactics came into play,” said Gretchen McCarthy, an account associate at Subject Matter.
The campaign leveraged nearly every team within Subject Matter, from communications and government relations to creative, media, digital strategy and content. Vital coordination happened across the agency, with the government relations team informing the communications side on what messages to elevate, and the communications team supporting GR’s conversations with legislators and staff with creative assets.
“The campaign was constantly shifting due to the legislation. We would adjust our spend and targeting on ads, social, events and thought leadership to have the greatest impact,” said Mike Nelson, senior director at Subject Matter. “The fact that we had insights into both sides of the Creative Advocacy equation was a strength to the client. Comms and GR teams were in total alignment with SIA’s needs.”
“We are always in unison,” he added. “It’s a lot easier to be effective when you have both sides of the firm going at a campaign.”
A coast-to-coast effort to reach millions
From the first signs of the chip shortage in February 2021 to the bill’s passage a year and a half later, SIA and Subject Matter secured placements throughout beltway and local media for the “Built on Semiconductors” campaign. Wins included:
- 6 op-eds placed nationwide
- Hundreds of media hits in top-tier outlets within the Beltway and in member districts
- 10 aired TV and radio interviews
The campaign reached across the U.S., amassing more than 50.9 million impressions, 2.2 million page views on semiconductor.org, and 600,000 clicks on SIA content. The campaign even had a tactile component: Subject Matter orchestrated the delivery of actual semiconductors to 155 congressional offices!
Without question, the success of the campaign is a testament to the strength of the client-agency relationship and cross-team collaborations. The clarity of SIA’s vision allowed the campaign to have a direct goal to aim for from inception to conclusion — and even beyond, as follow-up materials and assets have been part of the campaign’s effort following the bill’s passage.
“The campaign effectively paired strategies that were often complex, nuanced and carefully targeted with a message that was quite simple: chips are vital to our country, and we need to produce more of them on U.S. shores,” said Dan Rosso, SIA’s communications director. “The results were excellent and helped pave the way for enactment of historic legislation that will strengthen America’s economy, national security, and leadership in chip technology for years to come.”