Changents identified five of its members who have developed buzz-worthy environmental initiatives and featured them as “heroes” on the “Earthkeepers powered by Changents” section of the beta site, which went live June 9. The activists blog about their experiences, post on Twitter, and develop photo galleries of their activities. Visitors can then become “fans” or “backers” of individuals, and take on ambassador roles to support the campaign virally by sharing links and other content.
“We've enabled [real people] to connect with each other, tell stories, and take action,” said Deron Triff, CEO and cofounder of Changents. “It's different from a partnership between a company and large nonprofit; it's less intimidating.”
The partnership extends Timberland's environmental Earthkeepers campaign, which includes a Facebook tree-planting application, which was launched this March; a YouTube channel; and a blog. Ultimately, Timberland hopes to involve more than 1 million people in Earthkeeper initiatives.
One hero on Changents is the Big Green Bus. Timberland's PR team worked with 12 Dartmouth students to aid the cross-country trek of a “tricked-out Harvester school bus” converted to run on waste cooking oil. It fueled up on oil from the school's cafeteria, not far from Timberland's headquarters.
“It allows us to talk to [consumers] on their terms, where they're communicating with each other,” said Margaret Morey-Reuner, Timberland's senior manager for values marketing. She said the platform enables the brand to reach its target audience of outdoor enthusiasts in their 20s, but that, “The number one objective is to take advantage of the mission Changents has in using the site and platform that they've created as a vehicle to promote.”
Timberland is working with Cone, its corporate PR agency, to generate exposure for the selected heroes on a local, regional, and national level, according to Mark Malinowski, VP at Cone.
“There are times when in interviews Timberland will be tied in and positioned…but [the Changents partnership] is about promoting the Earthkeepers overall,” he said.
Cone is reaching out to the blogesphere, “green” sites, and traditional media.
Malinowski noted that the Changents partnership is “taking what Timberland represents from a CSR standpoint and using it to reach consumers directly.”