Communications Strategist - Campaign for Smart Justice

This job is available in either our Pittsburgh office or our Harrisburg office.
Salary is commensurate with experience. Benefits included - health insurance, vacation, etc.
Feb 13, 2018
Comms CSJ
Metro Area
Full Time

The ACLU of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA) is seeking a Communications Strategist to join its Campaign for Smart Justice team and lead the campaign’s statewide communications work. The Campaign for Smart Justice is a multi-year advocacy campaign to reduce Pennsylvania’s jail and prison population by 50% while combating racial disparities in the criminal justice system. The ideal candidate has successful experience with media in a fast-paced campaign environment and is a strategic thinker who has achieved policy wins by lifting up the stories of impacted communities.

The ACLU-PA is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest organization, dedicated to defending and enhancing personal freedoms protected by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights through litigation, legislative advocacy, organizing, and community education. The ACLU-PA has ten volunteer chapters, approximately 60,000 members and donors, and 29 employees. The ACLU-PA is rapidly expanding its advocacy infrastructure to meet current challenges to civil rights and liberties.

The Communications Strategist will report to the Director of Communications and will be part of an interdisciplinary, cross-departmental campaign team. This is a two-year, full-time, salaried position with a possibility of renewal depending on circumstances and available funding. It can be based in Pittsburgh or Harrisburg, although it will require travel around the state. People with personal experience being incarcerated or otherwise impacted by the criminal justice system are encouraged to apply.


Pennsylvania has the highest rate of incarceration in the Northeast, with approximately 48,500 individuals held in the state system. Between 2005 and 2014, Pennsylvania’s incarceration rate increased 16 percent, in contrast to other states in the region such as New York and New Jersey, whose incarceration rates fell 18 percent and 24 percent, respectively. The state’s machine of mass incarceration severely limits the ability of people, disproportionately people of color, to participate in the social, political, and economic life of this country.


Develop and implement a strategic communications plan to educate the public and elected officials about the urgent need for criminal justice reform in Pennsylvania.

  • Create messaging and talking points related to criminal justice reform for grassroots lobbying, media events, trainings, meetings, and broader public education.
  • Build and sustain constructive working relationships with key individuals—reporters, producers, and editors—at print, television, and digital media outlets throughout Pennsylvania.
  • Actively pitch reporters and coordinate interview requests, bookings, and press coverage of campaign events.
  • Identify and lead response to breaking news events, often requiring sensitive judgment calls.
  • Prepare staff, volunteers, and other spokespeople for media appearances.
  • Draft op-eds, press releases, letters to the editor, statements, internal memoranda, briefings, message guidance, fact sheets, and other materials.
  • Develop content for the web and social media that can elevate the campaign’s work and communicate stories. Content may include copy for the web, emails to ACLU supporters, blog posts, social media posts, graphics, and videos.
  • Oversee the creation of collateral materials such as flyers and handouts that will be used by organizers and volunteers.
  • Manage simultaneous projects and shifting priorities.
  • Develop key performance metrics and evaluate the success of individual tactics as well as the overall effectiveness of the campaign’s communications.
  • Manage simultaneous projects and shifting priorities.
  • Other responsibilities as assigned.


  • Personal experience being incarcerated or in other ways entangled with the criminal justice system preferred.
  • A minimum of five years of professional experience in one or more of the following areas: media, strategic communications, digital communications, and public relations.
  • Experience working on electoral or issue-based advocacy campaigns.
  • Must possess strong organizational skills, be detail-oriented, and possess the ability to follow projects through to completion.
  • Ability to communicate persuasively and professionally in writing and verbally to a wide variety of media, political, stakeholder, influencer, and volunteer audiences.
  • Experience working with the news media and cultivating relationships with print, radio, television, and online journalists.
  • Proven experience in exercising judgment in breaking news and rapid-response environments.
  • Experience drafting social media messages and promoting issues through social media.
  • Experience with social media, email, and other digital advocacy tactics, including an understanding of trends and best practices for online campaigning. Best practices for communicating via email, Facebook, and Twitter is preferred.
  • Strong interpersonal skills and an ability to work collaboratively with others as part of a team.
  • Knowledge of criminal justice reform advocacy and messaging, or an ability to quickly become conversant with the latest decarceration research, messaging, and tactics used to educate the public and move policymakers.
  • Passion for and commitment to ending mass incarceration and advancing racial justice.
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office is required; familiarity with Associated Press style is preferred.
  • Proficiency with HTML and experience using a CMS to publish and update website content is preferred.
  • Verbal and written fluency in Spanish is a plus.
  • Experience in photography, graphic design, and/or video editing is a plus.
  • Ability to travel.


Salary is commensurate with experience and within the parameters of the ACLU-PA compensation scale. Excellent benefits include generous vacation and sick leave; individual/family employer-provided health insurance; life insurance and long-term disability; defined contribution plan with employer match; and 10 paid holidays. This position is full-time, salaried, and exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act.


To apply, send a letter of application (cover letter), resume, and a copy of a previous communications plan you’ve written with metrics, goals, and objectives as a PDF.  Please include your last name and “Communications Strategist” in the subject line of the email. (It is acceptable to submit plans that have been redacted for confidentiality reasons.) In your letter, please indicate where you learned of the posting.


Preferred application deadline is February 25, 2018. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled, at which time the job announcement will be removed from our website.


The ACLU-PA is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. We value a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture. The ACLU-PA encourages women, people of color, persons with disabilities, veterans, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals to apply.  People with personal experience being incarcerated or otherwise impacted by the criminal justice system are strongly encouraged to apply.

The ACLU-PA comprises two separate corporate entities, the American Civil Liberties Union (the “Union”) of Pennsylvania and the ACLU Foundation (the “Foundation”) of Pennsylvania.  The Union is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation, and ACLU membership dues fund its lobbying work. Donations to the Union are not tax-deductible.

The ACLU Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. Foundation funds support litigation and public education efforts. Donations to the Foundation are tax-deductible. The Communications Strategist is an employee of the “Union.”

Both the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the ACLU Foundation of Pennsylvania have the same overall mission and share office space, employees, and the same board of directors. The two entities are jointly known by the term “ACLU of Pennsylvania.”

ACLU-PA’s hiring process will comply with Philadelphia’s Fair Criminal Records Screening Standards (“Ban the Box”) ordinance.