Introducing a newly approved wood species to the market is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. With the approval of Norway Spruce in October 2016 and its addition to the SPFs grouping, the NELMA marketing team launched a comprehensive information campaign that followed the official announcement. However, planning for the campaign began almost a year in advance to be sure we were ready to sprint into action with the announcement. While there were multiple angles to the launch, let’s take a closer look at the role that public relations played.
Information Gathering: To gather as much information on Norway Spruce and its impact, past and present, on the wood industry, we started in Albany, New York, meeting with a family-owned logging company and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Historical research yielded additional important information that supplemented person-to-person discussions. This included the 1936 Harvard Forest Study on Norway Spruce. Additional key individuals were contacted that were involved directly with the process of ushering Norway Spruce through the ALSC approval process.
Developing a Strategy and Plan: Two questions became apparent following the task of sorting through the tons of information gathered and looking at the wide range of audiences we needed to reach:
- What are the primary news “hooks” of the Norway Spruce story that would attract the most attention by media?
- Who should receive Norway Spruce information and what is the most efficient and organized way to share Norway Spruce news with our targeted audiences?
Question No.1 was answered with the identification of two key story angles that should resonate with the targeted audiences; the goal to not only educate but also spark the interest from various media across the country. The top two angles identified:
- the rich history of Norway Spruce and its introduction into the U.S., and
- the economic impact Norway Spruce would have on communities and businesses up and down the chain upon its acceptance into the existing SPFs species grouping.
Question No.2 was answered in 2 parts:
- Our audiences were divided into 2 groups: (1) National Media to include the building products trade, wood-related, and forestry media, and (2) State/Regional Media – New York state, New England, and Great Lakes. For each audience, comprehensive media lists of editors and writers were developed.
- And secondly, we needed an information hub to direct media for more in-depth information and to maximize the opportunity of sharing with as many media as possible. That meant the development of a Norway Spruce homepage on the nelma.org webpage.
Developing News Releases: News releases for each specific media audience and/or geographic region were drafted and approved. This was followed by region-specific fact sheets and paragraphs on how the wood was tested. Since upwards of 50% of Norway Spruce’s sawtimber volume is in the state of New York, specific economic value information was added for that state’s release. An online photo album was added to the website to help tell the story through images.
The writing and editing of the news releases, in addition to creating the media lists and the webpage took almost three months to complete, but well before the final ALSC approval in October. Click here to view the Norway Spruce Media Page.
Information Launch: On November 1 we joined with our friends at the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures & Composites Center for a joint press conference to announce Norway Spruce’s approval as a structural species and immediate inclusion within the SPFs grouping for strength values. Shortly thereafter, the introductory release was posted on a national newswire service and distributed it to all within the prepared media lists.
Results: The media feedback was more than we expected, and like nothing we have ever seen. Within 24 hours of the press conference at the University of Maine, NELMA’s Norway Spruce information had appeared on/in virtually every single mainstream media outlet in the state of Maine. This included every TV station, Maine Public Radio, and every major daily newspaper.
Within a week of announcing the news to the building trade media, we had shared photography and spoken on the phone with all of our top targeted publications; everyone published the story. While the primary PR push occurred last fall, we continue to share the Norway Spruce/NELMA story with appropriate media audiences as inquiries arise. This includes requests for information during the International Builders’ Show in January where we talked about it with every editor with whom we met.
Listed below is a sampling of the media coverage received for the Norway Spruce story:
Bangor Daily News
Maine Public Radio
Portland Press Herald
WABI/TV 5 (Maine)
A Concord Carpenter
Building Products Digest
Journal of Light Construction
LBM Journal (top 5 website story)
ProSales (most popular article for two weeks)
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