WHAT IF? COLORADO REALITY COMPETITION

Denver, Colorado

Integrated Marketing Campaign

Background
With the incidence of natural disasters on the rise, the threat of terrorism a modern-day reality and experts warning of an imminent influenza pandemic, the Emergency Preparedness and Response Division (EPRD) of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment set out to educate Coloradans about the importance of emergency preparedness. Surveys in Colorado and nationwide demonstrate that the majority of residents have not created emergency preparedness kits for their homes and less than half receive a seasonal influenza vaccination.

In March 2007, the EPRD issued a request for proposals (RFP) for a statewide public information campaign to increase the number of residents who assemble home emergency preparedness kits and who receive seasonal influenza vaccinations. The RFP called for a traditional paid advertising effort to support influenza prevention and emergency preparedness. GroundFloor Media took a chance and, after examining current social attitudes and past persuasive campaigns, proposed the State instead adopt an integrated public relations campaign. The proposed campaign used a combination of media relations, community relations and partnerships with key members of the Colorado business community, advertising and media partnerships, and creative, viral marketing programs. After a competitive agency review process, where GroundFloor Media was the only PR agency invited to present among the other advertising agencies, our agency was awarded a grant for approximately $758,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Public Relations Need
Previous emergency preparedness campaigns have relied on traditional paid advertising – similar to the request in EPRD’s initial RFP. But GroundFloor Media had examined the results of previous efforts and found that advertising alone had done little to address behavior change in Colorado.

To fully engage the public and model concrete actions people can take to become better prepared for emergencies, GroundFloor Media proposed that the new statewide campaign, What If? Colorado, to take a fresh approach to public awareness by utilizing a reality competition, online social marketing techniques, local business partnerships, Hispanic outreach and more to educate Coloradans about pandemic influenza and the need for emergency preparedness.

What If? Colorado asked Coloradans to consider how well they are prepared for a sudden emergency, such as a severe snowstorm or power outage, as well as more long-term emergencies such as an influenza pandemic. To kick off the campaign, GroundFloor Media conducted a Zoomerang survey of 1,000 residents to gauge the public’s knowledge and awareness of emergency preparedness.

Public Relations Strategy
What If? Colorado launched on June 1, 2007, throughout the state of Colorado with local public health agency summits, a corporate sponsor program, paid media partners, and a viral campaign to drive awareness and submissions for a reality competition.

The overall objectives and goals of the campaign were as follows:

  1. To ensure the emergency preparedness key messages were included in at least 75 percent of the overall campaign media coverage.
  2. To increase the number of respondents to the initial survey who said they have an emergency preparedness kit in their home by 5 percent.
  3. To obtain at least 100 auditions for the What If? Colorado reality competition.
  4. To ensure statewide reach of the campaign by obtaining auditions for the reality competition from all nine defined public health regions throughout the state.
  5. To secure broadcast media partners with value added opportunities in each of the three key media markets: Denver, Colorado Springs and Grand Junction.
  6. To garner at least two print and two broadcast hits on the reality competition in each of the three key media markets.
  7. To garner at least one media hit on the Nov. 17 mass vaccination exercise in each of the three key media markets.
  8. To engage citizens in the What If? Colorado campaign, generating awareness among at least 5 percent of survey respondents about the campaign.

To meet the campaign’s objectives, GroundFloor Media implemented a variety of tactics including first conducting educational summits in Grand Junction, Denver, Pueblo and Ft. Morgan with the Local Public Health Agency representatives (LPHAs), and then conducting formal press events in Denver, Colorado Springs and Grand Junction. Press conferences were conducted at local campaign partner King Soopers/City Market’s grocery stores. At each press conference, public health officials encouraged Coloradans to submit video “auditions” by Aug. 31 to enter the What If? Colorado reality competition, a multi-day event in September where nine Colorado residents would live together in a house and face a variety of challenges designed to test their emergency preparedness skills and knowledge.

Local events at King Soopers/City Market stores and other public locations throughout the summer encouraged participation and facilitated the filming of residents’ audition tapes. To be considered for the competition, applicants had to be over the age of 18 and answer the question “In an emergency, what five items could you not live without and why?” In addition, GroundFloor Media worked with partner Eldorado Springs Water to create branded water bottles that the LPHAs handed out at community events to help drive people to the Web site. Residents were also able to submit their video entries directly onto the What If? Colorado Web site. Paid television spots aired on CBS in Denver, NBC in Colorado Springs and NBC in Grand Junction to promote the competition, submission of auditions and voting for semifinalists. More than 120 adventurous people from across the state auditioned for the competition, providing answers ranging from water, food and batteries to cosmetics, poker chips and iPods.

Contestant auditions were posted on YouTube, and in early September an expert panel of judges critiqued the audition videos for creativity, originality and relevance to thecampaign, ultimately naming 32 semi-finalists from regions throughout the state. The campaign invited the public to log on to theWeb site, view the semi-finalists’ video entries and vote for their favorites. The reality competition featured nine strangers from across the state who met for the first time in downtown Denver at the What If? Colorado reality house. For three days, our production company followed the contestants as they faced a multitude of emergency preparedness and influenza issues, including “Grocery Grab” and “Glo Germ” challenges. Video footage from the three-day competition was provided daily to TV stations in Denver, Colorado Springs and Grand Junction as b-roll and aired on paid media partners’ newscasts, as well as on several other stations. Challenges and the contestants’ testimonials were also posted online at www.WhatIfColorado.com/episodes.

During the campaign, WhatIfColorado.com offered an online tool for people to calculate the quantities of food, water and other items needed for their emergency kits. The site also included information on where to get influenza vaccinations as well as educational messages about the differences between pandemic and seasonal influenza. To help increase the number of Coloradans who received their annual influenza vaccinations, GroundFloor Media launched a media relations program to support a statewide mass vaccination exercise on November 17. The exercise was designed by the EPRD to test the state’s ability to quickly immunize large numbers of people as might be done in a real public health emergency.

Evaluation Criteria and Results:

  1. To ensure the emergency preparedness key messages were included in at least 75 percent of the overall campaign media coverage.
    Post-campaign media coverage analysis shows more than 85 percent of the media coverage included the campaign’s key messaging on emergency preparedness.
  2. To increase the number of respondents to the initial survey who said they have an emergency preparedness kit in their home by 5 percent.
    Statewide, the number of respondents who reported having a home emergency preparedness kit rose from 27 percent to 29 percent; however, residents in El Paso County who reported having a home emergency preparedness kit rose from 25 percent to 33 percent.
  3. To obtain at least 100 auditions for the What If? Colorado reality competition.
    More than 120 Coloradans submitted video auditions for the competition.
  4. To ensure statewide reach of the campaign by obtaining auditions for the reality competition from all nine defined public health regions throughout the state.
    Auditions were received from residents living in eight of the nine defined public health regions throughout the state.
  5. To secure broadcast media partners with value added opportunities in each of the three key media markets: Denver, Colorado Springs and Grand Junction.
    Television media partners were secured in each of the key media markets, and each partnership agreement included value added opportunities, including ads on the partners’ Web sites and full production costs.
  6. To garner at least two print and two broadcast hits on the reality competition in each of the three key media markets.
    Television and print coverage on the reality competition generated 30 hits in Denver, 9 hits in Grand Junction and 8 hits in Colorado Springs.
  7. To garner at least one media hit on the Nov. 17 mass vaccination exercise in each of the three key media markets.
    Total media results included more than 65 broadcast hits, one print story in each of the three key markets and two Associated Press stories as well as a photo on the AP Wire.
  8. To engage citizens in the What If? Colorado campaign, generating awareness among at least 5 percent of respondents about the campaign.
    In the post-campaign survey, 12 percent of respondents recognized the What If? Colorado campaign.

Reality Competition Results
To date, the reality competition episodes and the What If? Colorado Web site have been viewed approximately 30,000 times, and the numbers on YouTube.com grow daily because the episodes are still posted. “Entertainment education” strategies like the What If? Colorado reality competition show that entertainment media can motivate a given community, allowing important messages to become socially reinforced and spread over time.

Additional Highlights

  • Garnered media coverage from top daily newspapers across the state, including the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, Colorado Springs Gazette, Grand Junction Sentinel, Durango Herald, Pueblo Chieftain and more.
  • Secured national coverage with two Associated Press wire stories and an article pick-up on MSNBC.com.
  • In addition to paid media sponsors’ schedules, GroundFloor Media received between two and five editorial pieces per day throughout the What If? Colorado competition on KCNC-TV Ch. 4 (CBS) in Denver, KOAA-TV Ch. 5/30 (NBC) in Colorado Springs and KKCO-TV Ch. 11 (NBC) in Grand Junction.
  • Post-competition, inspired contestants and other participants took it upon themselves to generate additional media relations activities, receiving placements in a number of local newspapers, including the Durango Herald, Lamar Daily News, Fort Collins Coloradoan, Pueblo Chieftain and the Rocky Mountain News.
  • Viral outreach included seeding messages on blogs and popular Web sites, such as Cafemom.com, Facebook.com, Meetup.com, Wannago.com, YouTube.com, Twiter.com, Vimeo.com and Revver.com.
  • Media impressions during the campaign totaled more than 54 million when editorial, media partner, Web site and viral coverage are combined, for an estimated cost of less than $.01 per impression. Nonpaid coverage to date totals more than 36 million impressions.
  • The campaign generated more than 200 media stories – and only nine of these stories featured negative comments about the campaign.
  • The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is now looked to as a resource for innovative public health campaigns and has been invited to speak on the What If? Colorado campaign at several national conferences in spring 2008.

Client Testimonials
“It’s no secret that public awareness campaigns initiated by government agencies have a reputation for being a bit stale and predictable. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment wanted to break out of this mold and take a fresh and unexpected approach to educating the public about two important issues: emergency preparedness and pandemic flu awareness. GroundFloor Media leapt to the top of our pile when reviewing agencies because of the exciting twist they put on the topics – as well as the way they were creatively able to maximize our budget while combining public relations with other traditional and emerging media.”

Dana Erpelding, Emergency Preparedness and Response Division, Training and Exercise Manager, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

“Having worked with countless contractors I can honestly say the professionalism and competencies at GroundFloor Media is second to none. For over a year now we have had no problems, only successes!”

Chris Lindley, Director, Emergency Preparedness and Response Division, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment