Consumer Awareness: NC utilities unite to promote different sources of energy

Most consumers pay little mind to where their energy comes from - they just turn on a light switch and assume power will be there.

Most consumers pay little mind to where their energy comes from - they just turn on a light switch and assume power will be there.

So when a group of North Carolina utilities banded together with several nonprofit groups to launch the renewable energy program NC GreenPower, they knew they had to first educate state residents about energy before they could begin enticing them to consider switching to environmentally friendly sources of power.

NC GreenPower turned to Capstrat to develop a campaign that combined broad media outreach with a targeted grassroots effort aimed at consumers who would at least consider paying a little bit more in order to live in a cleaner North Carolina.


Capstrat initially worked with NC GreenPower officials to narrow down the target audience. "Our goal was to use earned media to get out to the audience who would purchase renewable energy," says Karen Albritton, Capstrat's managing partner. "That is people 25 and over with above-average incomes who had contributed in the past to environmental groups."

But NC GreenPower and Capstrat also knew that fine-tuning their message would be important. "We had programs introducing new ways of producing energy, but it was a challenge because "green" is such a broad term, and many people didn't really know what it stood for," explains Sharon Gladwell, NC GreenPower's marketing and communications manager.

Focus groups helped shape one of the effort's message disciplines. Words like "buy," "purchase," or "invest" couldn't be used because they had negative connotations, but "contribute" was a term that resonated with the audience, says Albritton.


The campaign kicked off with a soft launch aimed at the media that began in July. It incorporated not only a traditional media kit, but also extensive media training. "We focused not only on print, but also on securing TV and radio because it's a pretty active audience of people who are outdoors a lot," Albritton says. "We knew we had to build a foundation that had credibility. That's why it was a very mass-market approach." Capstrat gave an additional boost to their media outreach by working with state environmental organizations to pen favorable articles for opinion and editorial pages throughout the state.

NC GreenPower was formally rolled out with kickoff events in the state capital of Raleigh, as well as in Charlotte, that combined news conferences with media-friendly demonstrations for local school kids. The goal of these events was to interest consumers, who could then go to a Capstrat-created website to get more information.


Initial media outreach generated advance coverage from the AP, as well as most of the state's print dailies, including The Charlotte Observer, the Raleigh News & Observer, and the Winston-Salem Journal. The two launch events attracted additional print coverage, as well as pieces on 116 radio stations and seven TV stations in and around Raleigh and Charlotte.

More important, within the first few days of the launch, hundreds of people had enrolled in the programs and thousands more had gone to the website to get more information.


As the education and awareness campaign shifts to a more grassroots level, NC GreenPower has brought its communications efforts in-house. "Right now, we're trying to leverage our volunteer base to continue to get the message out to all of North Carolina." But Gladwell had nothing but praise for Capstrat, saying, "They helped us create a visual and textural brand that we're continuing to use."

PR team: NC GreenPower and Capstrat, formerly Capital Strategies (Raleigh, NC)

Campaign: It's Not Easy Being Green, but Now It's Easier, Effective, Affordable, and

the Right Thing to Do

Time frame: April to December 2003

Budget: $500,000

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