Apr 22 2010

Earth Day at 40

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Forty years ago Earth Day was created to organize environmental teach-ins, to channel frustrations with nuclear proliferation and burning rivers and to brand a national movement. Earth Day is now a global network powered by a new generation of environmental activists.

More importantly, sustainability has become a household word and a lifestyle practice that impacts both consumer and business behavior. Today, sustainability is as important to the corporate bottom line as it is to the environment.

As such, I intended to write about best practices in green communications—from Brita to Pepsi to Seventh Generation there are numerous case studies in corporate and social responsibility demonstrating how companies are implementing sustainability initiatives and communicating with their stakeholders.

Last night, however, I had the opportunity to attend the Earth Day Eve Leadership Celebration, part of the first Creating Climate Wealth Summit hosted by the Earth Day Network and the Carbon War Room held at the Georgetown McDonough School of Business, April 20 to 22, 2010. What better way to celebrate Earth Day than to share the insights of movement leaders?

Sir Richard Branson, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, UN High Commissioner of Human Rights Mary Robinson, Earth Day Network President Kathleen Rogers and Earth Day 1970 Organizer Denis Hayes spoke about the history of the movement and the need for continued action. My @tasj tweets from the dinner at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center follow (with typos for authenticity).

#DenisHayes – I thought in 1980 we were in an energy revolution. It was an information revolution instead #EarthDay

#EarthDay  #DenisHayes Transformation has been stunning. More apps for iPhone than computer in 1970.

#EarthDay  – In early 1970s helped spawn creation of EPA, clean water act, endangered species act, among others.

#EarthDay created a new vocab even though worries about nuclear war and burning rivers already existed.

#EarthDay  – 40 years ago, 20 million people, $125,000. Today #EarthDay is a global movement. Tx #DenisHayes

#GaryLocke need clarity in regulatory envionment for investment and innovation in clean energy technologies

#EarthDay future is the marriage of commerce and the environment. #GaryLocke [jokes he is] opening act for #Melissa Etheridge

# MaryRobinson 1.6 billion without eletricity deserve small solar, clean water and better living conditions

#MaryRobinson Climate Change is not just polar bears. It’s about Climate Justice – providing skills/knowledge for clean energy

#RichardBranson climate change is about creating new technology and changing way we live our lives – as his mobile rings

Photo: Chris Kormis, Deborah Hudson, Tracy Schario

Mar 22 2010

Creative Public Service

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Creativity is energy. It’s vibrant. It’s original. It should also be strategic and analytical. Above all it should be easy to understand in its execution.

I was baffled by the Census 2010 Superbowl advertisement, which was widely panned as a flop. The “public service” announcements featured cast members from Christoper Guest mockumentaries such as “Best in Show” in a pre-production meeting for the production of Snapshot of America.

The ad may have been creative, but only if you understood the Hollywood reference. From a strategy stand point, the ad failed miserably. The information component was missing.  What is the census? What is the value of participating? What was the incentive to visit the Web site?

During the NCAA tournament this past weekend, I saw another Census advertisement that was more promising in its mission to educate recipients and influence survey returns.  The punchy musical message shared the importance of mailing back the census survey in a creative and strategic manner.

This ad, along with videos on YouTube and the Census Web site more clearly articulate the reasons for completing the census. These are part of $340 million promotions and advertising campaign targeted to the 120 million household required by law to complete the census, including targeted audiences such as Native Americans and Hispanics.

What makes the music ad better the Hollywood teaser?  It’s simple, memorable and entertaining. More importantly it contains information that has the potential to influence and change behavior. You can’t measure creativity, but you can measure campaign objectives.

After all, the primary goal of a public service campaign is to educate and inform the public about a desired behavioral outcome. “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires.” “Stop. Drop. And Roll.” “Keep America Beautiful.” More contemporary public safety campaigns include “Click It. Or Ticket” and “Over the Limit? Under Arrest.”

Given the effectiveness of these public service campaigns — did you know Smokey the Bear was 65? — perhaps the census promotions would be more effective over a longer period of time. Not just once every 10 years.

Feb 10 2010

#Snowpocalypse: The Unreported Story

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Since Friday, we’ve have more than 30 inches of snow in the nation’s capital.  It’s still snowing with blizzard level winds and low visibility. Once again, I’m fascinated by the television reporting.  Why do then rarely report how people spend their days in doors? I know. Working from home, laundry and household chores are boring.

Capitol HillThe federal government and many businesses have been closed for three days and counting.  It’s Wednesday, but feels like Sunday. It’s been winter vacation with intermittent shovel parties. I’ve caught up on some reading. Superbowl Sunday, my husband made a snow beer mountain. Cooking standards and new bistro trials have featured scones, waffles, salmon risotto, oven roasted chili, chicken pot pies and cookies for ice cream sandwiches. We’ve opened some vintage wine. What better special occasion than a record-breaking snow storm?

With Fat Tuesday fast approaching, I’ve already stored up plenty of calories for Lent.  I think I’ll give up being a coach potato.

Other than a brief flicker last night, we’ve had electricity and heat. How did I survive winters in Ohio as a kid without the Internet?  My nieces and nephews are perplexed as well.

Being from the Midwest, I usually shake my head at the DC metro region’s ability to overact to snow.  An inch or two can close schools here. This double whammy snow storm/blizzard, however, would cripple most any city. A shout out to the caller on the Kojo Nnamdi shower earlier today — in the Midwest, your neighbors have 4 wheel drive trucks and snow plows. They will plow your driveway — and the street if needed.

There has been plenty of reporting on the hard work and dedication of first responder personnel (even the bike cops are still on patrol in my neighborhood) and road closures.  As for historical context, there are some archived photos of the January 1922 Knickerbocker storm and video from the Presidents’ Day storm of 2003. (It was a week before the snow/ice melted in the alley, and I could get my car out of the garage).

However, my historical context is the Ohio Blizzard of 1978 a “severe blizzard” dumping nearly 4 feet of snow, producing arctic wind chills, record low barometric pressure and killing 51 people. We lost power at some point over the weekend and had be rescued by the Ohio National Guard. Sustained 40-50 mph winds, gusting to 100 mph, made it impossible for a lithe grade school girl to walk without assistance. We spent several days at my grandmother’s.

We made it home, but I don’t remember how. Memories include 14- foot snow drifts in the street that took days to disappear.  School was back in session, but we couldn’t walk to the end of the street to get the bus. My dad carried groceries through the drifts and lost a bag of oranges.

With snow still falling, if only for a little while longer, it looks like DC will have its snowiest winter ever with 55″ inches of snow since Dec. I look forward to monitoring reports of another once-in-a-lifetime blizzard.