Schake helps Live Earth occupy center stage

If the planet had a PR team, it would likely be led by Kristina Schake.

If the planet had a PR team, it would likely be led by Kristina Schake.

A fixture in California's political and social-action campaign scene, LA-based Kristina Schake Consultants guided global media strategy and press operations for this summer's Live Earth, the seven-continent day of concerts on July 7, 2007, meant to draw attention to the climate crisis and encourage individual empowerment.

The assignment was simple: In six months, from start to end - and with little budget for paid media - Schake's team was to create a colossal launch event to activate the world toward long-term change.

Her crew - including frequent collaborator Chad Griffin, with whom Schake had teamed in June 2006 to manage the Yes on Proposition 87: Californians for Clean Energy campaign - was ready for the challenge.

"When entertainment and politics come together: that's what we do," she says. "We [thrive on] projects that have an agenda and exact goal in mind that we're trying to achieve within a short period."

With a staff of eight full-timers, plus sub-contracted firms in LA, New York, and London, Schake and her team ingrained themselves into Live Earth from its very beginning, she says. Even on a shoestring budget, she could count on Live Earth's hundreds of affiliated celebrities to generate media attention. And relying on Al Gore - chairman for Live Earth's nonprofit partner, the Alliance for Climate Protection - was a given. But Schake also looked to elected officials and leaders to enforce the concerts' global warming message.

Though no concert was scheduled for LA, the team worked with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to declare it Live Earth Week prior to the shows. That gave the event a local hook, notes Griffin.

In other countries, Schake turned to NGOs, who were especially key in terms of translation issues related to reducing C02 emissions.

"We would send talking points to our NGO partners and ask, 'Is this an appropriate, effective way to reach people?'" she explains. "They would send us back what they thought was the best way to go... everything from the way we described the concert and [its] goals to what individuals could do to change their own behavior."

But climate issues weren't the only crises that arose.

One which drew significant press coverage was the threatened last-minute cancellation of the Rio de Janeiro show, based on what local authorities called "lack of security." Within minutes of getting the news, Schake says, she was on the phone with her crisis communications contact in Rio, who resolved the situation even before stage-building had been interrupted.

Another frequent question revolved around the issue of carbon emissions: What kind of environmental damage would actually be done by the concerts themselves?

Coming from the political realm, "we're used to media critique," she says. "There was not a question asked we hadn't thought through."

Schake's crew worked with Live Earth organizers to establish extensive green guidelines and to use the event "as an opportunity to show leaders in the field how to make concerts greener."

Whether Live Earth's message has lasting impact in terms of climate-change action, only time will tell. But what the campaign did do, Schake says, is let people be a part of a global community for a day, even if they just watched at home. That turned into a big community, too, as an estimated 2 billion people tuned in on TV and online.

"It's very difficult to have a global event in this day and age, when everyone is focused on a single activity," Schake admits. "Concerts that take place in multiple locations is one of the few ways to do that. Live Earth allowed the green social movement to have its moment."

Kristina Schake

Principal, Kristina Schake Consultants, Los Angeles

SVP, GMMB, Los Angeles

Executive director, I Am Your Child Foundation, Beverly Hills, CA

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