Alliance members man the rope lines

The Common Ground Alliance (CGA) is a nonprofit overseeing that underground utility lines aren't damaged by digging. It currently has 1,400 corporate, industry, and government association members.

Client: Common Ground Alliance (Washington, DC)

Agency: MGH (Baltimore, MD)

Campaign: 811 on 8/11

Budget: $5,000

Duration: June – August 2010

The Common Ground Alliance (CGA) is a nonprofit overseeing that underground utility lines aren't damaged by digging. It currently has 1,400 corporate, industry, and government association members.

811 was established as a national call-before-you-dig number in 2007, and CGA launched Call811.com, which provides a wealth of information and links to 62 excavation notification centers. For the last two years the organization and MGH, its AOR, have used August 11 (8/11) to promote the 811 number and drive website traffic.

Strategy:

Khrysanne Kerr, VP of communications and program development, explains that without an ad budget the opportunity to get national morning show TV coverage is minimized. So, beginning in 2009, the team used the rope lines at Today and The Early Show to promote 811 messaging on August 11.

“It's cost effective and reaches a big audience,” Kerr says. “The only time we get coverage is when something goes terribly wrong. It's a proactive, positive way of securing national exposure.”

The team also provided members numerous PR materials to promote 811 and the site.

 

Tactics:

Chris McMurry, VP, associate PR/social media marketing director at MGH, says 2009 was mostly a research year terms of understanding what it took to get air time from the rope lines. This year, about 50 CGA members manned the lines wearing “Call 811” t-shirts (compared with 12 in 2009).

Materials provided to CGA members included press releases, mat releases, fact sheets, sample artwork, social media messaging, and internal messaging for employees. 

Member tactics included partnerships between call centers, utility companies, and minor league baseball teams in Maryland and Indiana to offer $8.11 tickets. Shell Oil hosted an August 11 media event to unveil an 811 logo on a fuel tank in Houston, and Florida Power and Light also put an 811 logo on a Fort Lauderdale tank.

Other participating members included Verizon, which sent an e-mail to all employees about the importance of 811 and promoting it to customers, and Home Depot, which tweeted messaging to 25,000 followers.

Results:

CGA measures success by web traffic rather than call volume because calls are measured by notification centers, which aren't mandated to report data. Kerr says August 11, 2010 was the busiest day in Call811.com's history, with more than 2,100 unique visits (up from 704 in 2009).

Rope line presence earned nine minutes of air time total for both shows and 20 million impressions. CGA members' efforts yielded an additional 70 million media impressions combined.

Future

A 13-month plan for promoting 811 is being presented to CGA members this month. The rope line tactic will definitely be used next year.

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