Victory by Association: Episode 9 | Billy Rinehart

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Billy Rinehart

Billy Rinehart is a passionate organizer for progressive causes and issues. He is now the Executive Director of a Political Action Committee, Blue Uprising. Blue Uprising had an incredibly successful 2018 flipping four coastal congressional races using ocean specific messaging. Billy loves to surf, sail and lose to his wife routinely on the golf course.

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You are listening to Victory by Association with Jeff Tippet. International speaker best-selling author, an entrepreneur.

This is the podcast exclusively for association executives and members each week Jeff interviews association executives about their victories igniting new ideas for you to create greater value for your members. And now, “gentrific.

Well hello, everyone I’m Jeff Tippett. I’m grateful that you’ve joined us for today’s episode of Victory by Association. Today’s show is brought to you by Audible. To get a free audiobook download and 30 day free trial at audible trial, with over 180-000 titles to choose from.

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Today I am so excited to welcome our guest William Rinehart, the executive director from Blue Uprising PAC.

William, how are you?

Good Jeff, and feel free to call me Billy.

We’re buddies now, right?

For sure.

Hey, before we get into everything, I think I saw on your LinkedIn profile, a little background at UNCW.

Yeah, that’s correct.

I swam there, from 01-05, and also played lacrosse, but I think the greatest part about U-N-CW was helping run the campaign to keep five sports teams at the division one level there when they were on the chopping block.

That’s fantastic. Well, I’m based in Raleigh and I used to have a beach home, down in Brunswick County, Oak Island, so I’m kind of familiar with that area and it’s a really cool place. A beautiful downtown there as well.

Yeah, absolutely.

Well, Billy tell us a little bit about Blue Uprising PAC and the work that you guys do?

Sure, absolutely. So the PAC started when I was meeting folks in the ocean community who were voting… Not necessarily progressive, they loved the progressive lifestyle, used reusable material and would bring their own like mugs to coffee shops. But yet they were voting for a lot of folks that were really camping off-shore drilling or they would just deny climate change and it just seemed so odd to me and a lot of it was just because they had no idea a lot of the times, who they were voting for were championing these just terrible issues that would hurt the ocean.

So that’s why I was like, “Hey let’s start talking to these folks, and how do we talk to them? So it’s not so they’re not too frazzled or they don’t feel attacked et cetera, they’re just educating voters about… Hey, these are some better options for you to vote for.

And that’s why Blue Uprising started.

That’s very interesting. Well, we’re gonna have fun talking today because outside of speaking professionally I also own / manage a public affairs and communications firm. So I think we’re gonna have a great time talking. Before we get into all the good stuff. Well, if you don’t mind, tell us something interesting or unique about you that most people don’t know something, they won’t find on your LinkedIn profile, but just give us an insight into something about Billy that people may not know that they might find interesting.

That’s a good question. Maybe some folks who have received letters from me or emails without spell-check, they might quickly find out that I’m dyslexic. So one thing that’s unique and individual about me is I can spell a word more than a 1000 different ways.

There you go, that’s awesome.

Tell a little bit about your association victory. Some area of success or something that you’ve experienced there for Blue Uprising Pac.

Yeah, there are two. One was the outcome where we were able to help flip four congressional races and one where we won by 125 votes to ensure a candidate made it through the primary, so that was a big one. But I think when we talk about leading and bringing something together, I would say, our surfboard events. When we worked with a lot of different groups — actually at first it was just like me and a few folks getting together on the beach. And what we would do is we would spell out vote with surfboards and we would take a drone and we’d get the drone shot with Vote out of surf boards in that local community, and then we put it on social media, and share the pictures with local organizations.

And that started out it was interesting, it just started out me logging my own personal quiver of surfboards and Newport Beach, “I brought 10, and I had a few friends in southern California say they’d help us out. And we were able to get about 25 surf boards to the beach.

We had one gentleman by the name of Charlie, who has a Instagram, account called the Drone booth and he was like, “Hey he saw what we were doing online is like “Sure I’ll supply the drone. And he did an excellent job and then we took that almost to a road show, we went to Wrightsville Beach, Virginia Beach, Santa Cruse, San Francisco in a few other spots, Huntington Beach.

Yeah, it was great at the end of it. We started getting World Champion surfers folks who have served and won a few races, but then also folks who have stood on the medal stand at the Olympics and snow boarders. So we started just combining the outdoor sports industry and just said, “Hey this is a place first to talking about voting, what it means to surf in clean water, actually have a winter that you can snowboard, in. And so, yeah, you’re taking that. We’re gonna be layering it on to a bunch of different sports in 2020.

Okay, I believe this is just fascinating. I love hearing the creativity that you’re expressing here. So when I speak, and I speak from my companion book Unleashing Your Superpower, one of the things I talk about is how we have to stand out and be a little bit different.

And growing up, I was raised with the golden rule. Do unto others, and then it got into business. I start understanding another golden rule which is she who has the gold, rules, but today we talk about the thumb ruling and how we’re mobile, we’re scrolling up and we’re making choices and how most of links and most things that people toss out there, fail. But I love this idea of going out, taking the surf boards creating the word here and then taking the drone. It’s just a whole different angle. A different approach. Kudos to you for helping get out of the sea of sameness. I feel like sometimes, especially online, it’s the same stuff over and over again and people glaze over.

I can picture me clicking on that and being curious more but what it is less your message, what are you talking about, what I see you for doing something a little… A little different, a little unique.

Thank you, I appreciate the love. Definitely it was an idea that it just not only galvanized as we would talk about it and then also empower other organizations to jump in and work with us. And I think that was when I look back at it now, why I was successful is because of a lot of it, I just let go of the idea and that other people pick it up and join in in the circle and by the end of it, we had it down pretty pat. And we were able to talk to about three million people through those events digitally.

Okay, that’s… That’s crazy stats, that’s amazing, I… Another thing that I like, just beside the creativity, I really love the alignment with your brand, the alignment with your messaging, especially since you’ve talked about environment and you’re going out into these environmental spaces, places where people enjoy and they’re finding recreation, they’re finding a great time and you’re taking that message to people who love what it is that you’re trying to protect. So they align. To me it’s spectacular as well.

Thank you, I appreciate that.

So talk to me a little bit about why this matters to your association and matters to your PAC in your group, launching out and something a little bit unique. And I’m hearing some stuff about views and things that… Tell me a little bit about why it mattered. And some of the… What comes from doing it and being creative like this.

I think everything comes from a challenge or a problem that you see. And in politics, I would just see these massive campaigns with insane budgets that would just send material or they put this digital stuff up that no one cared about and people are just rolling away. And I had one person say to me like, “Hey you know, you only have 3% of the voters attention.

I was like, “That’s not true, it’s only because that’s the way that you send your stuff and your stuff is just weak. And I’m sorry to say it, but when you just send a stupid pamphlet, and it’s not interesting, no one’s gonna care. And so, yeah, you will live in that three-second universe.

So one day I was talking to my wife, who is also the co-founder of Blue Uprising.

I don’t wanna just have an event at a beach where we invite elected officials to talk to five or ten ears that follow these elected officials, everywhere they go, anyways.

We have to do something different. And I was like, I’m a surfer and I vote and that was the first thing that I thought of, and when I started thinking about what that meant I was like, “There’s so many surfers out there, they’re passionate about ocean they’re passionate about waterfowl, they’re passionate about beaches. And I was like, “We need to have an outlet for them, we need to have an outlet for young, old, white, black, then when we need to be able to come together as one thing and one thing that we could come together on is voting.”

So going into this, and I want to… This very first vote with a surfboard and the drone.

Were there any particular metrics for success that you were looking for, or where do you… Just like rolling it out and just waiting to see the outcome everyone thing.

Pretty funny is how the goal line can keep moving with metrics. So, my first metric was, “Do I have a drone and then do I have the 22 surfboards to spell out and vote with surf boards?

We blew that away, we had 25 surfboards, so our T got a little bit bigger, but we also had a now-sitting member of Congress, Harley Ruda, came and spoke at the event. Then we also had community members and leadership from not just on the politics side, but in the conservation side talk about what voting means for their organization and further beaches.

So I think that was our first metric was like, “Hey let’s get local folks talking about voting. And then I just kept going by metrics, became are the surfboards in the drone shot because we started working with sustain surf who, the end all of sustainability and surfing as far as how your surfboards, made with materials, etcetera, and they were like, “Hey wouldn’t it be cool if you did this of all ecoboards? And I was like…

Yeah, but it’s really hard just to get 25 surf boards and people to bring them to the beach at this particular time and the drone, it’s much more difficult to do that when there’s actually good surf, but sustain surf really stepped up. And they helped us work with different distributors of eco-friendly board, so that now our standard is okay. Are we using eco-friendly boards as far as some of the metrics, go? I think when we started talking about that as an organization like, “Oh how do we get this out and we need more eyes on it we realized the more we partner, the more we work with other people and the more we bring people and invite people into our space, the better this whole thing’s gonna go, and stop thinking about how are we pushing our message out, but how can we leverage and work with other groups, so that they’re pushing this joint message out, and that’s when we started to see things skyrocket. That’s when the Instagram account first took one of our pictures and put it up. And next thing you know, I… I think we went from 110 that particular day we had maybe 100 website views, to 1500, a few hours, and we’re just like, What is happening in that Instagram account? Earth has over a million followers. So yeah, I think it’s just like letting things happen and letting it organically, putting your best foot forward, checking your ego, checking your control. I know I’ve had to check my own control about these events so many times, like, “Oh it’s not happening or my own plan or this or that, and it’s just like none of that really matters, it’s all about the event happening.

Great, so just empowering others to jump in.

I love it. As I mentioned, I own a public affairs and communications firm and I often hear from clients, we don’t have the budget. No, we can’t spend it, we don’t have the budget and it… It sounds like you found a really creative way to launch out and find some really cool success without maybe having this massive budget up front to front load this.

I think that’s completely… We’ve had… I would like in 2020, one of our goals is to actually start paying the vendors. And the people that have just burnt their feet walking on the incredibly hot sand lugging surfboards. The one thing we were able to do this year was take people out to lunch and maybe have a few margaritas. But one thing that we’re trying to do for 2020 is making sure that our vendors and our partners that we’re able to pay them and really honor what they’ve been able to do for us.

That’s fantastic. Billy, I love this. My take away from our time together, is first of all, outside the main three years. I just don’t allow the budget to hold you back if you’ve got a mission, if you’ve got something, you’re really after, don’t let it hold you back. But three things that I heard from you for success that I think this will be great for our listeners, this is you talked about creativity and just going outside, being a bit more creative, finding alignment with what… And don’t be creative to the far side that there’s a lot of people look at that creativity that it doesn’t make any sense to me, because I hear what you’re talking about. Your creativity, it makes sense. So you do have an alignment there, and these are success, to collaboration. Sometimes we’re so afraid of other associations or other organizations that we have to put our little censor on it, we’re like… No, leave us alone, we can’t collaborate, we can’t work with you. You might steal someone, you might take a dollar of ours, we can’t do that, but those are my three big takeaways from our time. Is that fair?

I think that’s very… I think the universe will… Yeah, the more you give, the more you’ll get back up.

Yeah, that’s what we’re about.

Love it, absolutely. So as I mentioned, we’ve got Rob about 40000 executives, associations on our email list here about 25000 social. We do that, we share this with you and have a nice size audience here for this next question, What would you toss out if you are looking at other people in your place, maybe trying to find ways to move things forward, move the ball, move the needle.

What advice would you give to association executives? It might be listening today and say, “Hey my one take-away from Billy.”

I think one thing I’m really happy is I never was scared to fail with this. I think I… Half of that, to my wife, she was always there like any time I was ready to say, There’s no way this is gonna happen. She was like, “You’re already too far in, you can’t stop now. So I think finding people that are gonna support you and just be that optimistic sound, well that you’re gonna need sometimes even when things don’t look like they’re gonna happen, just keep going and… Yeah, it’s something to be said for almost being too naive to the reality.

I love that — I was reading somewhere today, something basically that would say that success is not the opposite of failure. It’s part of success, like we fail and we keep going.

I love it. Well, last question here before we head out is, if you don’t mind, tell us a bit about a person that maybe has volunteered with your organization. We do an association super hero shout out to a volunteer. I think there’s great value in showing gratitude and appreciation of people that are making things happen. Is there, I know you probably have tons of them, but is there one today that you would like to spotlight as your association Super Hero volunteer?

Yeah, we definitely could not have done it without our board of directors, I think they were great and we brought on some staff, but one staff member that I feel like her name’s Dia and she’s our director of technology and she is just incredible, at staying with our progressive purpose, and just reminds us, pretty much every day like Hey, how are we moving the needle forward… And challenging our own organization to evaluate ourselves and to put our best foot forward.

She is fantastic.

Love it… You’ve just been fantastic. You’ve given us some great information here and thank you for being our guest. If people are listening today, or watching today and they want to track you down, how’s the best way for people to find you?

Yeah absolutely, again Instagram at Blue Uprising, and then… Also, my email address is And then, if you just wanted to go to the general mailbox, and we’ll get back to you that way it’s info@blueuprising, that works.

Fantastic, and we’ll add all these links into the show notes, so please make sure you check it out, if there’s any alignment here, reach out to Billy and I’m sure he’ll be happy to talk to you. Billy, again, thank you for the work you do.

And there’s generally always a connection to somehow protect our oceans, so we make sure that it’s our first and foremost goal.

Fantastic, well, thank you all for listening. My gift to you is a free chapter from my new book, Unleashing Your Superpower. This chapter is on creating a simple persuasive message, and in this chapter, I walk through four proven steps to help you develop a message that will resonate with your audience, get a free copy by texting the word persuade to 66866. Again, thank you, Billy. Thank you all, we’ll see you next week as we discover another Victory by Association.

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