Efficient use of resources helps drive energy initiative

From early 2011 to March 2012, federal stimulus dollars funded Santa Clara County's Energy Emergency program, which aimed to drive home energy assessments and upgrades and stimulate the local economy.

Santa Clara County office of sustainability,California (San Jose, CA)

ICF International (San Francisco, CA)

Energy Emergency, phase two

August 2012-March 2013

$175,000 for PR ($266,000 total including advertising)

From early 2011 to March 2012, federal stimulus dollars funded Santa Clara County's Energy Emergency program, which aimed to drive home energy assessments and upgrades and stimulate the local economy.

Federal funding stopped in March 2012 and Santa Clara County did not want to lose momentum while awaiting funding from the California Public Utilities Commission. So the county and ICF International, which it has worked with on a project basis since the campaign launched, continued local community outreach.

"We wouldn't get as much funding as we got for the first round so we honed in on key aspects that were successful from phase one to keep momentum," says Sharlene Carlson, manager of the sustainability and energy program for the county.

"We relied heavily on partnerships and community engagement," says ICF International principal Jonathan Jordan. "In phase one, we invested significant budget and effort in earned and paid media."

Events, social media engagement, a campaign website, and ads also drove messaging. Phase two efforts highlighted links between energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and health.

The campaign positioned local Santa Clara contractors, who do energy-efficiency work, as trusted experts in making homes healthier, more efficient, and comfortable.

In-store promotions helped raise awareness among consumers.

Website messaging focused on implementation of energy-efficiency improvements and promoting local contractors.

The team provided additional guidance to contractors on selling and marketing energy up-grades during a training session.

Stakeholders, including city supervisors and community groups, were given collateral and messaging to promote phase two efforts. The county co-hosted 13 events with partners, who promoted the events through their own channels.

Event attendees were surveyed about energy efficiency and its relationship to health. Gift certificates to partner stores were given away to attendees who provided email addresses.

The county sponsored a November 18 stop on the Energy Upgrade California Roadshow at a Santa Clara County-hosted event at a local Sears.

The store and other ongoing retail partners, such as Whole Foods, hosted in-store promotions. New partnerships were established with health organizations, including Kaiser Permanente, Breathe California, and Holistic Moms Network.

Northern California media outlets and select bloggers covering family, home, and green topics were alerted to phase two events.

Since 2011, 663 people have had home-energy assessments, and nearly half have made improvements. During phase two, 49 homeowners got energy assessments, beating the goal of 40 by March 2013.

Carlson says about half have completed upgrades or are implementing them.

"Conversion increased from 43% in phase one to 47% in phase two," she adds. "Having half of the people move forward [translates to] an average of 30% in energy savings."

Jordan says about 1,100 people were directly engaged at events and 917 email addresses were collected, up 17% from phase one. Between August 20, 2012, and December 3, 2012, the website got 9,510 unique visits and 13,406 total views.

The county will continue working with the agency and focus on education. The team will also expand outreach to eight additional Bay Area counties.

PRWeek's View
This was a big campaign and great progress was made in phase two, even with the limited amount of funds available to the team. Creating new partnerships and working with established partners to drive deep into communities was a wise move. Extending messaging to include the health angle likely helped engagement and the team did a nice job focusing on improvement of health rather than inciting fear. Santa Clara County seems well-positioned to continue to make progress on this front as efforts on the initiative will expand this year.

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