Campaigns: Product PR

Louisiana-Pacific found out the hard way that basing a PR campaign on the whimsy of politicians is a risky endeavor. The company rolled out its SmartGuard line of termite-proof building products last April in Louisiana after officials called for legislation mandating such products to battle the state's infestation crisis. Unfortunately for L-P, lobbyists for the home construction industry wanted state officials to back off any termite-proof mandate for fear of increasing in-home building costs.

Louisiana-Pacific found out the hard way that basing a PR campaign on the whimsy of politicians is a risky endeavor. The company rolled out its SmartGuard line of termite-proof building products last April in Louisiana after officials called for legislation mandating such products to battle the state's infestation crisis. Unfortunately for L-P, lobbyists for the home construction industry wanted state officials to back off any termite-proof mandate for fear of increasing in-home building costs.

Louisiana-Pacific found out the hard way that basing a PR campaign on the whimsy of politicians is a risky endeavor. The company rolled out its SmartGuard line of termite-proof building products last April in Louisiana after officials called for legislation mandating such products to battle the state's infestation crisis. Unfortunately for L-P, lobbyists for the home construction industry wanted state officials to back off any termite-proof mandate for fear of increasing in-home building costs.



Strategy

Deborah Salem, an account supervisor with Troy, MI-based PR Partners, which L-P brought on board last October, says her firm chose Louisiana out of the 14 southern states with severe infestation problems because it had suffered the worst of a widespread Formosan termite attack - costing dollars 350 million a year.

An important part of the strategy was to lobby the state legislature to approve the proposed termite treatment legislation, the existence of which also made the state the optimum venue, says Salem. The campaign sought to position the new product as a savior to the hard-hit state while establishing Louisiana-Pacific as the premier supplier of termite-proof building products.

The communication strategy was to educate Louisiana residents about the severity of the problem and then assuage them by presenting L-P's solution: SmartGuard.



Tactics

PR Partners first researched public, industry and legislative awareness of the problem with a 600-respondent survey. Simultaneously, the PR team worked with L-P and its partners, Osmose and US Borax, to coordinate the campaign while preparing materials for L-P's 150-member sales force and a national sales meeting last February in Las Vegas.

Agency staffers also approached state legislators, gleaning information on their awareness of the termite problem and laying much of the groundwork for the launch. They argued that passing the legislation would not substantially increase construction costs.

In April, pre- and post-news conference calls were made to all local media and selected national media, with 200 press kits sent to national trade publications and the major networks. A VNR was produced for satellite distribution to follow the April 4 news conference at the termite-damaged Conti Wax Museum in New Orleans' French Quarter. L-P gave preference to Hanley-Wood publications, a Washington, DC company that runs several building-industry magazines, says Salem. Her team also created a Web site for SmartGuard.



Results

In the end, L-P's efforts to push through legislation was stymied by a much more powerful state construction lobby, which convinced local officials to water down the proposal into an educational initiative. 'Things in the legislative area did not work out as planned,' says L-P vice president of marketing Steve Weinstein.

Though there was no national coverage, PR Partners claims a TV audience of 511,000 with wide coverage on the April 4 evening newscasts in Louisiana.

The campaign garnered 967,487 national impressions in newspapers such as The Daily Journal of Commerce, New Orleans City Business and even The Long Beach Press Telegram. Items also appeared in Architectural Record, Builder Products, Builder, Remodeling, Rural Builder and Timberline, totaling more than one million impressions. More than 800,000 radio listeners heard items on the product launch. However, the Web site has garnered fewer than 800 hits, PR Partners says.



Future

While the company prepares for rollouts in Houston, Phoenix and Orlando, Weinstein says the next campaigns may not be as extensive.



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