Discovery Education: Doubling the Fun with a Product Launch

Based on the success of the “Science Matters!” campaign alone, Discovery Communications would be considered a leader in public affairs and communications efforts, but the company never stops raising the bar: In June 2008, Discovery launched a new network, Planet Green, with overwhelmingly positive results. Annie Howell, senior vice president of communications and public affairs for Discovery Communications, discussed the campaign—and the company’s overall approach to communications—in CableFAX: The Magazine’s 2009 CableFAXIES Awards issue (CableFAX is a sister publication of PR News). Here’s what CableFAX’s PR Exec of the Year had to say: How did launching Planet Green compare to your previous roles at Discovery? Howell: Launching Planet Green tapped into every communications skill I have learned during these past two decades—from leading a team and developing strategy to writing, pitching and executing events as well as working hand in glove with the GM, production and marketing to build the brand, develop content and put together a board of advisers and partnerships with a dozen NGOs. How difficult was it to break through such a crowded entertainment field? Howell: The choice to use known personalities and some homegrown talent in original shows created serious curiosity that helped us build buzz for the launch. This was especially true with the entertainment and mainstream press, which were vital in helping us reach that wider audience. The trick was to make sure the content remained balanced and accepted by the environmental media, too. We had a great moment when we collaborated with The New York Post to turn its [cover banner] green on June 4, the day the network premiered. Partnerships, such as those with the Nature Conservancy and Green Apple Festival, were an important component in the network’s launch. How important will they be in the future? Howell: Partnerships are an essential component to our success as a brand. We like to say that Planet Green is a brand with a mission, and the best way to extend our reach to audiences who care about this issue is through the experts who are working on environmental sustainability every day and with those groups that align with our brand personality. How do you follow up such a successful launch? Howell: We keep going. The state of the environment and what we’re doing about it is more relevant today than it was even a year ago. With the new [presidential] administration’s directives and call to action on the environment, the growing impact of climate change globally and the struggling economy, it’s more important than ever that we use our platforms to inspire and encourage people to action.

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