The Professional Awning Manufacturers Association (PAMA) seeks to establish its 300-plus businesses as preferred awning sources.
PAMA knew the general public viewed awnings as old-fashioned. So in 2006, 181 members funded a three-year national consumer awareness campaign that revolves around a Web site with a store locator and benefits, including energy-saving ability.
"When you talk[ed] to people about awnings, they were thinking of grandma's aluminum awning," says PAMA MD Michelle Sahlin. "To create a preference for fabric awnings, we [had] to re-educate the public."
Risdall McKinney Public Relations (RMPR) was hired to propel the effort.
PAMA commissioned an energy study, and results from seven cities were released in early 2007. It conducted a Harris survey last summer to uncover buying preferences, which Rose McKinney, RMPR president, says helped clarify consumer perceptions.
The key messages were that awnings provide energy efficiency, enhance curb appeal, expand outdoor living space, and protect from UV rays. Messages were driven via media relations, the Web site, stakeholder relations, community events, and partnerships.
"[The] energy-saving [message] ties into other benefits," Sahlin says. "[With] people more aware of green living, this product isn't interfering with that goal. It lends itself to sustainability."
Study results were posted online and, while they were pitched nationally, the team also targeted the cities covered and building industry trade publications.
PAMA, which currently partners with FabricLink, is seeking new partners, such as SHADE Foundation of America (skin cancer prevention).
The team plans to pitch government entities. "If it's an energy organization, we have a compatible message," Sahlin says.
Newsletters were developed for members. Community events and contests are in the works to engage the public and generate awnings application examples.
PAMA doesn't track sales, but from February to May, the site had 8,354 unique visits and142 click-throughs.
"Before [the campaign], there were no or very few messages about awnings and awning benefits," says Sahlin. "We weren't on consumers' radar."
Coverage included Builder Magazine, Finance & Commerce, and the Louisville Times. The story also ran in Environmental Design & Construction, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Forbes, and on KRON-TV San Francisco.
"We've seen spikes in traffic and click-throughs every time the PR is out there," McKinney says.
PAMA will continue to partner with RMPR. The team is working on pitching long-lead publications, adding a b-roll video and podcast, reaching out to potential partners, and planning a variety of events.
PR Team: Professional Awning Manufacturers Assoc. (Roseville, MN) and Risdall McKinney Public Relations (New Brighton, MN)
Campaign: Awnings Today
Duration: June 1, 2006 to 2008
Budget: $200,000 per year
Using the link between awnings and energy efficiency is brilliant. The energy study was a very wise spend and should continue to be pushed. Though it might be tough to compete against "cooler" green stories in major media outlets, the idea should be driven, as it will resonate with consumers- even if they don't learn about it via a major media outlet.
Lifestyle and city magazines could provide excellent coverage. Building trade coverage is also wise, since industry members can serve as ambassadors.
Traffic seems low, but isn't in reality, since the site started from zero.
Good events and powerful partnerships could serve to bolster efforts going forward.