Case Study: The "25/15" Campaign
2010 Convention on Biological Diversity
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is a once a decade meeting of more than 180 countries to review, update and ratify the world’s only legally binding global treaty covering all aspects of biodiversity conservation. Given its importance, Conservation International (CI) recognized the CBD as the highest priority global event for 2010 to achieve key policy and communications objectives.
I was tasked with leading CI's Communications & Marketing team in this effort. As I do at the outset of developing any communications strategy, I convened our policy and science teams to understand what it was they wanted to achieve and how communications could support that. Given the scope of the treaty itself, the resulting list was long and technical. For us to be successful, we needed to be able to articulate our goals in a clear and concise manner that could be understood by multiple audiences.
Through a series of meetings that I facilitated, we were able to drill down and translate this complicated list of scientific goals into a very basic concept: For the CBD to be successful, the treaty had to establish expanded targets bringing more land and ocean areas under protection. With that guiding principle, we were able to start building the campaign.
The next step was to have our teams determine what targets for protection they wanted to see in the treaty. We settled on a set of numbers that were not only scientifically viable but also made sense from a communications perspective in that they were both simple to understand and ambitious enough to catch the eye of the media.
We would call for governments to agree to global protected area targets of 25 percent for terrestrial land and 15 percent for marine areas. In more simple terms this was translated to “We need 25/15.”
As an organization we still had several scientific objectives we wanted to achieve, but it was agreed that “We Need 25/15” would be our primary rallying cry and serve as an entry point to discuss our larger agenda.
Thinking beyond our scientific and policy goals, it was also important that we used this global meeting as a branding and positioning opportunity for the organization.
In addition to the government delegations who attend, large international gatherings like the CBD draw a vast array of audiences including corporate decision makers, media, foundation executives and partner non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The fact that the CBD was being held in Nagoya presented an additional opportunity as CI has an office in Tokyo dedicated to engaging the national government, regional corporations and local donors.
With the background information gathered and prioritized, we settled on a set of key objectives to guide our communications campaign:
- Policy: Push “25/15” protection targets and financial commitments to achieve those targets
- Partnerships: Strengthen partnerships with CBD governing body, the Japanese government and targeted Japanese companies
- Brand & Positioning: Position CI as a trusted advisor and catalyst for biodiversity conservation
- Exposure & Donor Pipeline: Promote "25/15" petition through media, email and social media channels as a tool to increase website subscribers
- Go Paperless: Decrease CI’s use of paper and other resources significantly from previous international conferences
With our objectives clear, I was able to work across our divisional teams to populate the rest of our strategy document including target audiences, key messages, tactics and metrics.
Using the overarching campaign document for guidance, each of the creative teams went to work developing their targeted implementation strategies. Below I have highlighted a few of our key implementation tactics that helped lead to the success of the campaign.
It was important that our "25/15" argument be based on sound science. Typically, this would require going through a long process to have a scientific paper supporting CI's position published in a peer reviewed journal with a niche audience. This is often done without any communications input, resulting in a "wonky" piece that is difficult to publicize. Instead the communications and science teams worked together from the outset to create a targeted "report" that we would not seek to have published, but would still be vetted scientifically. By collaborating throughout the process, we were able to ensure that the final report would appeal to government delegations, media, partner organizations and interested individuals, thus serving to meet both our scientific and positioning objectives. While not "sexy," this core piece provided our creative teams with the authenticty they needed for the more creative implementation of the campaign. To download the entire report click here.
Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest. We knew that our target audiences at this event would be working long hours, stuck in conference rooms, navigating a foreign country and have limited access to media channels. Even if we maximized all of our communications opportunities, there was no way we could guarantee that our core message would reach all of the right people. One thing we did know was that our team on the ground would be walking the same hallways, consulting with delegates and participating in the negotiations. We armed everyone with a simple "25/15" button (as well as a pocketfull of extras) broadcasting our message. It worked! These buttons jumpstarted several conversations. As our call for "We need 25/15" began to pick up speed our buttons went "viral" and became one of the must have items of the convention. If there was ever an ROI on a communications investment, this was it.
Use of Celebrities:
Harrison Ford, one of the most recognized movie stars on the planet, has been the Vice-Chair of Conservation International's Board of Directors for several years. He takes this role very seriously, and only agrees to use his celebrity status under limited circumstances. In this case, we worked with Mr. Ford to craft a schedule that was centered around the "25/15" policy push including meetings with high level delegates, members of the Japanese government, select media interviews, speeches at key side events and photo opportunities signing the "25/15" petition. Mr. Ford further amplified CI's message through a coordinated call to action using social media including email, Facebook and Twitter. Actor Ian Somerhalder followed Mr. Ford's lead, using his Twitter account to ask his followers to sign CI's "25/15" petition. Because we carefully used Mr. Ford's presence, and prepped him to speak thoughtfully and knowledgeably about our issues he lent further credibility and visibility to the "25/15" campaign.
The "25/15" campaign represented CI's first use of the emerging QR Code technology. The QR codes, used on business cards and booth banners, pointed to our specially built microsite as well as targeted videos. This allowed us to easily deliver our "25/15" report and other supporting materials to the mobile devices of delegates and media who were constantly on the go and away from their computers or internet connections for long periods of time. The QR Codes also helped us "walk the talk" and fulfill our objective of keeping our use of paper, DVDs and other materials to an absolute minimum.
The "We Need 25/15" message was an important element in translating our complicated policy ask into a simple message that our online and donor communities could also understand. It is one thing to help our followers understand the work we are doing, but getting them to take action is another. We turned to a powerful engagement tool - activism. We created a "25/15" petition and committed to delivering the names we collected to the CBD leadership to ensure their voices, as individuals, were heard. It was a simple tactic, but one that empowered our supporters with a tangible action they could take to support our mission. In total, we collected nearly 20,000 signatures from around the world - the single most successful petition in CI's history.
One of CI's core brand attributes is partnership, yet CI's work with corporations is one that is not always understood. We saw the CBD as a unique opportunity to speak to important decision makers and influencers from around the world about this work, and why we feel that all sectors of society must be part of solving the planet's environmental issues. With a focus on Japanese companies, we used our booth to tell success stories with partners like Toyota and Ueshima Coffee. Our most creative tactic was to work with long time partner Sony to set up a groundbreaking 3D photography exhibit displaying pictures taken with their cameras at CI conservation projects. The display drew large crowds each day. Its popularity encouraged Sony to duplicate this display at other major events that they participate in, taking CI's conservation message to new audiences.
The "25/15" Campaign led to one of Conservation International's strongest showings at a major policy event. We demonstrated success across all of our defined objectives which have been listed below. This short video also provides highlights of this success.
- The protected area targets in the final treaty were increased from 10% to 17% for terrestrial areas, and from 1% to 10% for marine areas. All of the experts agreed this was a dramatic, and unexpected, jump.
- A number of financial commitments were made to support implementation of these targets. The Government of Japan led the way with a $2 billion pledge.
- Other key environmental and social policy changes CI sought were also agreed to.
Partnership & Branding:
- CI was the only organization invited to participate in the CBD wrap-up press conference lead by the CBD Secretariat and the Environmental Minister of Japan - each of whom wore "25/15" buttons.
- CI’s "25/15" policy briefing was downloaded hundreds of times and we had requests from several national delegations for personal consultations during the meetings.
- Several “closed-door” meetings took place between CI and Japanese government officials on a variety of topics. That strong relationship continues today.
- CI and Sony have since established a 5-year partnership to fund CI's global “storytelling initiative” including donating 3D photography and video equipment for staff use.
Exposure & Donor Pipeline:
- 1,000 media stories were placed in 40 countries reaching an audience of 1.3 billion.
- Nearly 20,000 people from 154 countries signed CI’s "25/15" petition. 30 percent of those individuals became new CI members.
- Conservation.org traffic was up 11 percent. CI's use of Twitter drove 43 percent of petition page traffic via “Tweet This” links and celebrity endorsements from Harrison Ford & Ian Somerhalder.
- CI saw record traffic to its blog section.
- Through the use of QR Codes and mobile technology, CI dramatically reduced its need for paper and other resources and served as an example to other attending organizations.