The winners and honorable mentions in this year's PR news Platinum PR awards issue exemplify the most innovative approaches to redefining traditional PR with anything-but- traditional strategies. From a marketing communications effort that united a country over the search for the stars of a 1950s TV commercial to an event that landed a flock of pink flamingos around the windy city, the following winner confirms that the PR profession has indeed stepped out from the shadows to take a front-and-center role in delivering business results to their own organizations, and to their clients. Below is the winner of the 2008 PR News Platinum PR award for branding.
GE may be a household brand in the United States, but its awareness level in Germany wasn't up to snuff, especially given the interests in environmentalism and energy efficiency shared by both the company (via its "Ecomagination" initiative) and the country.
Ein, Zwei, Drei
To increase GE's awareness in Germany, the team focused its efforts around a specific issue--water purification--to give the campaign a relevance to the target audience. Hamburg was chosen as the local community around which the initiative would be positioned, with the issue of using technology to achieve economic growth and environmentally friendly production processes as the specific hook.
Once that was established, the team sought to engage the target audience with a creative concept that would leave them wanting more information: a 15 meter-high drinking straw that was installed in the middle of the Elbe river (which runs through Hamburg) and symbolized the need for water management, as well as the capabilities of the solutions behind GE's Ecomagination commitment. The team then executed the program in three phases:
- Phase 1--Tease:Tthe team installed the straw but kept the identity of who was behind it a mystery to get people interested. "During the teaser phase, the challenge was to make sure that the different layers of communication worked toward the same goal," says Megan Parker, who works in GE's communication department. "We used direct mailing, appearances on morning and evening radio programs, public opinion polls and an online raffle [to begin the conversation]." The media outreach was intended to motivate people to go online and enter the raffle with their ideas of what the straw represented.
- Phase 2--Reveal: This phase hinged on an event that revealed who was behind the campaign. Business leaders were invited to attend a boat cruise down the Elbe and then a session at Hamburg's Atlantic House, during which time the GE execs presented Ecomagination's water purification capabilities.
- Phase 3--Explain: Once influential members of the business community were informed of the campaign's purpose, the team explained its meaning to consumers by, for example, offering purified water samples to travelers passing through Hamburg's airport. This phase was executed with the goal of driving traffic to GE-ecomagination.de.
Achtung, Fertig, Los!
The campaign achieved its goal of increasing visibility in Germany. A post-campaign survey revealed that almost 60% of corporate executives were aware of the program, and 62% associated it directly with GE. Plus, 68% said they feel more familiar with GE, and favorability of the company jumped from 69% to 82%.
"Our campaign broke through the noise by being in so many places," Parker says. "People wanted to know what this campaign was about after being teased for more than 10 days."