A fully integrated comms effort is the formula of choice as Dow Chemical brings its Human Element initiative to the world.
When the Dow Chemical Company approached holding companies earlier this year inquiring about marketing teams to create an integrated global campaign, it didn't waste any time.
After hiring in March an IPG team led by GolinHarris that would be supported by ad agency Draft FCB, the two began work on a corporate reputation effort called the Human Element. They held the first PR and advertising event in DC in mid-May, followed by another event at the UN in July.
"That's insanely fast," says Scott Farrell, EVP and global account director for Dow at Golin. "The [DC] event focused on policy makers and influencers. Shortly thereafter, Dow began popping up in speeches by people like
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY)."
Patti Temple Rocks, VP of global communications and reputation at Dow, says the company is trying to establish itself as the largest, most profitable, and most respected chemical company in the world. She says this goal is a "clear and unequivocal priority" of CEO and chairman Andrew Liveris.
"It's one of his desires from a legacy standpoint," adds Temple Rocks. "It's a recognition that, in this global economy, what you do and say matters to a lot of people."
Human Element is designed to help people grasp the connection between chemistry and humanity and show how Dow is mobilizing its people and resources to facilitate global human progress.
Overseas work was originally set to begin in 2007-2008, but Farrell says the initial success and reaction to the effort has pushed that start date up to late 2006 and 2007.
"We were in Europe and Shanghai a couple of weeks ago meeting with the Dow and Golin teams to lay the groundwork for a launch in early 2007," Farrell says. The main areas of focus include Germany, Spain, Holland, the UK, Russia, and China. There will also be pan-Asian and pan-European efforts.
"It's fun to see the excitement and enthusiasm shared by the agency and Dow communications people in Europe and Asia," he adds. "They've seen the effect it's having here. There's a lot of anticipation."
Launching such a campaign globally has its challenges, such as getting offices around the world on the same page. But Farrell says Golin's account management tool, GHXchange, makes the process run smoothly.
"Our GHXchange collaboration tool will give all our team members and Draft FCB real-time access to all documents and materials being created for Dow," he says.
Golin's Insidedge unit worked on getting Dow staff behind the campaign when ads debuted in June.
"The weekend before launch, we [put] the print ads up in Dow facilities around the world, so when employees came to work on Monday, they were greeted with a very different [workplace]," says Insidedge EVP Linda Kingman. "When they logged on to their computers, there was a special pop-up page that gave them a sneak peek at the print campaign."
Making sure Human Element's message resonates within various communities is also a concern.
"Though the concept is universal in its appeal, the way we can support [it] through PR can vary by region," Farrell says. "We're being strict about preserving the sanctity of what the Human Element is and what it means for Dow, but there's flexibility within that framework that recognizes that different countries and cultures will tell the story in different ways."
Temple Rocks, who oversees the effort's execution from the corporate side, has a unique perspective.
When Dow began looking for a marketing team to manage the campaign, she was an EVP in Golin's Chicago office. While helping create the theme and concept behind the eventual winning pitch, she got a call from Dow, her first employer after college in the early '80s, asking her to come back. She said she'd consider talking after the pitch process was over, and in the end, she couldn't resist the opportunity to lead a campaign she helped create.
"Twenty years from now, people will say Dow did some amazing [PR] work in the early 2000s," Temple Rocks says. "We're in a transitional time with [Dow] and public affairs is playing a key role. Agency or client, it doesn't matter, we're all here at a pretty cool time."
Dow wanted a campaign with PR and ad elements, but it was Golin that led the pitch.
"That says clients are beginning to recognize that corporate reputation is driven more by integrated efforts, but that PR plays an important role in establishing overall corporate reputation," says Golin president and CEO Fred Cook.
Toby Sachs, SVP, group management director at Draft, says he's never worked this closely with a PR agency on a campaign this big.
"It's a treat," he says. "This is where the phrase 'integrated campaign' comes to life. Our audiences receive both sets of messages - paid and earned - but if those two things don't work absolutely in concert, it just doesn't work."
Temple Rocks says many of Dow's challenges - breaking into new regions, reigniting a more proactive media relationship, and winning employee understanding and support - had to be handled with PR strategies and tactics, "not necessarily instead of advertising, but equally as important."
PR efforts scheduled throughout 2007 include executive-visibility programs and thought-leadership speaking engagements for CEO Liveris and his leadership team, discussing how Dow is reshaping the way the chemistry business should be seen and managed, sustainability, and workplace initiatives. Dow also plans to champion the need for clean drinking water around the world through a partnership with the Blue Planet Run Foundation, where, in the span of 80 days, 18 runners will circle the world in a relay race.
"The campaign was created from a completely integrated framework, and its implementation has been and will be equally integrated in the future," Temple Rocks says. "There are some opportunities and geographies where PR will take the lead. In others, it will be advertising. Operating from this wholly integrated platform isn't only the smartest approach; it's the most efficient."
5 Keys to an effective global campaign
1 Build global ownership through regional involvement in planning
2 Provide flexibility within a framework
3 Leverage technology to support collaboration
4 Develop an open mind and completely banish the "not invented here" mindset
5 Use a global measurement strategy to evaluate results