Alliance's Hardwick savors prized opportunity

Like many people, Brian Hardwick, director of communications and development for the Alliance of Climate Protection, woke up last month to find that former Vice President Al Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for working to raise awareness about global warming.

Like many people, Brian Hardwick, director of communications and development for the Alliance of Climate Protection, woke up last month to find that former Vice President Al Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for working to raise awareness about global warming. It's safe to say, however, that Hardwick's experience, which involved a relentlessly buzzing BlackBerry on his night table at 2:15am, was a little different than most.

Realizing that if Gore won there was a good chance the Alliance would get a significant amount of media exposure, Hardwick set his alarm for 2:30am PST - the winner was announced 5am EST.

Little did he know that 15 minutes after being woken up, Gore would issue a statement naming the Alliance the beneficiary of his $1.5 million prize. And because the ex-Vice President was scheduled to have a meeting with the Alliance that day, Gore wanted to formally announce his donation at its small Palo Alto, CA, office at 10am. That's when he realized the magnitude of this PR opportunity and the fun really began.

"At [3am], I started making the wake-up calls telling our staff to get out of bed, buy coffee, and be at the office by 4," Hardwick recalls. "[Ours is] a team of six, so having the world media descend upon us in a matter of hours was kind of a big undertaking."

The Alliance, a bipartisan, nonprofit aimed at raising awareness and money for global warming issues, was founded by Gore in 2006. Hardwick, who served as the national finance director for Gore's 2000 presidential run, is the Alliance's spokesman and oversees its messaging and strategy.

Hardwick knew that once the media advisory hit the wires, the calls, e-mails, and satellite trucks would start rolling in. So with the help of the local police, some neighbors, and a landlord, the Alliance was able to find parking for all of the satellite trucks and a room in an adjacent office for the several hundred media members.

Once on-site, Hardwick and Alliance CEO Cathy Zoi handled all media inquires. For a lot of the press, this was the first they'd ever heard of the Alliance. In fact, the initial question many of them asked was whether he'd known Gore before that day. "Yeah, he's our chairman and founder," Hardwick would answer.

"In 24 hours, we went from a nonprofit not many people had heard of to getting a massive number of media mentions all around the world," he adds.

Michael Feldman, founding partner of DC-based strategic communications company Glover Park Group who was in town for a meeting with the Alliance, ended up lending a hand. Feldman, a senior adviser for Gore during his vice presidency, says Hardwick made the most out of a once-in-a-lifetime PR opportunity.

"There aren't too many events with that kind of profile that take place with so little lead time," he notes. "Brian's a savvy guy. He moved quickly to take advantage of the moment."

The Alliance also had a strategy meeting with the Martin Agency, its advertising AOR, scheduled for that morning. While setting up for that meeting, Hardwick and Feldman noticed the agency hanging black felt on the wall.

"We looked at each other and said, 'Yeah, we'll need that,'" Hard- wick recalls. So he had them take it down and make a backdrop out of it behind the podium. "We hung [our] logo on it... and had someone go to Kinko's to make a podium sign with our URL on it," he says. The Alliance got more Web hits that day than ever before.

With everything in place, the only thing missing was Gore.

"By the time the Vice President arrived, it all ran fairly smoothly," Hardwick thankfully says. "[It's as] if the Alliance had done this a hundred times."


Brian Hardwick

April 2007-present
Director of comms and development, Alliance of Climate Protection

2006-April 2007
VP, Penn, Schoen & Berland

2005-2006
Campaign manager, Gifford Miller's NYC mayoral run

2004
Regional field director, Democratic National Committee during the general election

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