Efforts must focus more on action than celebrities

Al Gore's $300-million climate change push has been sometimes called an ad campaign.

Al Gore's $300-million climate change push has been sometimes called an ad campaign. Yet, if this initiative - considered one of the biggest public-advocacy campaigns ever - wants a multi-million-dollar fundraiser, it should go beyond a big ad spend and engage people in a way that calls them to action.

Much of the media attention about the campaign focused on the Gore-founded Alliance for Climate Protection's ads airing during shows like American Idol and The Daily Show. Featuring unlikely allies like Al Sharpton and Pat Robertson, the ads will inevitably raise awareness, perhaps even in communities that are not traditionally supporters of global warming. The commercials will also help the campaign reframe climate change as an issue that deserves the same urgency and national unification as other generation-defining issues.

At a time when there is so much competition for people's attention, motivating millions of people to action, as the ambitious campaign plans to do, will take more than unexpected celebrity endorsements. Passive consumption only goes so far. People must interact with a campaign to motivate them from awareness to action.

Some pundits have suggested the effort is building capital for legislation should a Democrat take the White House this fall, but its grassroots PR strategy is more about individual conservation than lobbying. Users are asked to join the effort through the project's Web site, http://www.wecansolveit.org/, where they can read conservation tips and action plans. It attempts to encourage all levels of participation with options that include social networking, hosting events, and online video.

While featuring surprising celebrity ads will initiate an instant flurry of media buzz, the success of the campaign hinges on the extensive engagement that only PR can provide.

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