GRS Communications was founded in 2003 with a vision of satisfying emergent client demand for a comprehensive suite of communications services that address the growing corporate and government focus on sustainability.
In 2005 ICANZ, engaged GRS Communications to establish a reputation for ICANZ as a leading and respected building industry voice advocating improvements in the energy efficiency of Australian buildings. At the time few industry or environment groups were advocating for improved building energy efficiency.
Working with a very low budget and a cautious client with limited exposure to PR activity, GRS created an ambitious three-year integrated government and media relations strategy aimed at delivering regulatory and policy reform with a forecast end point culminating in the 2007 Federal Election.
The strategy challenged the orthodoxy of incumbent governments, vested interests of sections of the building industry, and indeed the client itself.
It took ICANZ, as new industry group, from political and industry obscurity to become a leading voice for change that was listened to by federal and state governments.
As a direct result, improving the energy efficiency of buildings through insulation is today a central plank of federal and state government policies addressing burgeoning stationary energy demand and climate change, and is actively supported by industry, environment and community groups alike.
In 2005 ICANZ was the only building industry group prepared to advocate for change, but it was not effectively addressing the industry’s key issues, nor communicating relevant information and clear substantiated argument to stakeholders.
Analysis by GRS found ICANZ had available powerful arguments that could demonstrate the value of effective demand side solutions to greenhouse gas (GHG) abatement and improved social equity:
- Governments were focussed on long term supply side solutions, e.g. building more power stations. ICANZ was missing out on government policy support to alternative energy and supply side solutions.
- Little attention was being given to low cost and sustainable demand-side solutions such as improving the energy efficiency of buildings.
- Vested building industry interests fiercely opposed greater regulatory stringency in the Building Code of Australia.
- Nearly 40 per cent of existing Australian homes had no or very poor insulation.
- Internationally, a large body of evidence was emerging to show that improved building energy efficiency was the single most effective solution to GHG emissions and improved the health and well being of building occupants.
- Industry modelling and research indicated that insulation was the most cost effective way of improving building energy efficiency and thermal comfort.
- Australia was lagging far behind its international counterparts in regulatory stringency and policy development.
In developing a robust and credible argument, complex data sets from a variety of reputable national and international sources were gathered covering social, environmental and economic research into the penetration, impact and benefit of insulation. Sources included:
- Australian Bureau of Statistics
- United Nations Environmental Project
- International Energy Agency
- Research conducted by BRANZ limited, (NZ) Victoria University of Wellington (NZ), and SERA Inc (USA)
- Institute of Public Health Surveillance, Department of Environmental Health, France
- Housing and Health Research Program, Wellington School of Medicine, University of Otago
- Modelling by Delloite - Insight Economics (commissioned by ICANZ)
- Modelling by Tony Isaacs Consulting (commission by ICANZ)
- McKinsey and Company
- Stern Review (UK)
These and other data provided a rich fund of powerful argument that GRS used to great effect. (See Appendix A.2.)
Federal, state and territory governments
- legislature and executive
Develop and implement policy;
Respond to public opinion
|Support essential to success of PR campaign|
Specific government statutory agencies
|Have energy portfolio responsibilities||Implementers of government policy|
- HIA, MBA
Main customers and act as gate keepers on products choice.
|Influence policy direction and public opinion|
Energy and environment groups
- BCSE, ACF
|Have an interest in advocating for improved energy efficiency for the environment||Likely to be allies and influence policy|
Building and manufacturing unions
|Handlers and installers of ICANZ member products||Can influence government policy|
|General consumer base and community||Are consumers of member
|Political constituency that can influence the direction of government|
|Media - metro, urban, regional and industry||Gatekeepers and disseminator of information||Lead and reflect public debate and opinion; Influence government thinking and policy directions|
GRS made it clear to the client that all information had to stand the test of intense public and peer scrutiny - its credibility had to be unquestionable. Once regarded with respect, the process of acceptance of ICANZ information as fact in social and individual belief systems could occur.
GRS’s strategic approach involved a process of continuously ‘seeding and feeding’ ICANZ messages into formal and informal conversations and networks. It involved enabling key targets to learn about the need for improved building energy efficiency and the ready solutions available through insulation.
A stakeholder relations program augmented much of the networking and liaison undertaken by the ICANZ CEO and members and complimented the media relations and government relations activities.
- Key Messages
ICANZ media and government relations communicated the benefits of building insulation:
- Insulation is the cornerstone of energy efficient and sustainable buildings
- Insulation is a self-funding, profitable investment
- Insulation improves housing affordability and commercial profitability
- Insulated buildings are virtual power stations
- Regulation and incentives will succeed - market forces have failed
- Insulation improves social justice
- Insulation lifts productivity
- ICANZ is a leading voice for insulation
(See Appendix A.1 for further details)
- Key Campaign Features
Objective 1. Achieve government wide understanding and support
- Letters, briefings and submissions to Prime Minister Howard and state Premiers, other federal and state ministers, shadow ministers and various government agencies and authorities
- Set up federal and state level meetings/briefings with ministers, ministerial advisors, and senior bureaucrats, presenting the factual basis of ICANZ policy thinking
- Follow-up topic-related information kits, policy reviews, government budget and enquiry submissions
- Special events for industry and government stakeholders (e.g. MP visits to insulation factories) to capture political and media attention (See appendix B.5)
Objective 2. Build a credible reputation and respected voice for ICANZ
- Issues analysis through a desk top study of information research, media, industry associations, competitors, government; strategic PR briefings of ICANZ board members
- Knowledge management by building a database of insulation field data, hard economic, health and environment data
- Promote ICANZ as the repository of wisdom on the value of insulation:
- - Economic value: industry’s size, revenue, employment (both current and potential)
- - Social value: insulated buildings improve occupants' health and save lives
- - Safety values: superior water resistance and fire retardant qualities of glasswool insulation compared to other products
- - Product values: adherence to industry standards as defined by Standards Australia and the ACCC.
- Objective 3. Capture political influence through positive media coverage
- Proactively and reactively work the news cycle, responding to media and government commentary on issues as they emerge (See Appendix B.4.).
- Nominate and media train ICANZ spokespeople
- Create a media planner to identify forthcoming media opportunities
- Provide strategic advice on emerging issues to ensure ICANZ spokespeople were prearmed with key messages (See Appendix B.4)
- Briefings with key media including editors of metro, regional, suburban and industry
- Write and distribute ICANZ media releases as commentary to evolving and emerging issues
- Implement a system of daily and longer term media monitoring, issues analysis forecasting and reporting
- Objective 4. Win stakeholder support and advocacy
- Build a contact database of all key stakeholders and opponents
- Respond to stakeholder issues including countering opposing argument
- Meet and brief key industry stakeholders
- Support key stakeholders with their communications activities
- Distribute media releases and other information to the 3,500 key stakeholders
- Create a quarterly electronic newsletter ICANZ News Update advocating regulatory reform
- Create and publish ICANZ industry fact sheets, advertising and advertorial
- Enhance the ICANZ website with commentary on government policies and regulation
- Goal 1. Get 5 Star into the 2006 Building Code of Australia (BCA)
The BCA was under review during 2005.
With this limited time to significantly influence a large number of publics (8 months) and working against strident opposition from some building industry interests and senior Federal MPs and ministers, GRS determined a targeted program aimed at key government and industry interest.
A series of media and public statements demonstrated the industry’s strong support and argument for BCA 5 Star provisions. Also boxed in Federal Parliament these well argued and evidenced statements provided a direct communication from ICANZ at this critical juncture and played an important role in showing strong industry support for the inclusion of 5 Star provisions in the 2006 BCA.
(See Appendix B.1)
- Goal 2. Get 5 Star into state building codes
To come into operational effect, 5 Star required each state government to legislate its implementation into their own state building codes.
The Victorian government was an early supporter of 5 Star and quickly passed the 5 Star legislation. GRS had ICANZ publicly support the Victorian government decision, in order to demonstrate that industry would publicly endorse any government backing 5 Star.
GRS set-up briefings between ICANZ and relevant state ministers and bureaucrats, supported by a series of media releases. (See Appendix B.2)
With the stakeholder communications program up and running with a large database, newsletter and email campaigns and industry media relations were used to reinforce ICANZ's position with those who could influence government decision makers. (See Appendix A.3 and A.4)
As a result of this program, 5-Star or its equivalent was adopted by Victoria, SA, NSW and SA governments.
- Goal 3. Achieve state government funded insulation retrofit programs
With some 40 percent of existing Australian homes uninsulated the focus then turned to encouraging governments to implement policies to retrofit insulation in these homes.
Following the success of 5 Star at the federal and state level, GRS began an ICANZ campaign advocating that state governments should fund the retrofitting of insulation into the 40 percent of existing homes that were uninsulated.
The extensive use of the stakeholder database on current issues, the quarterly ICANZ News Update (See Appendix A.5) and delivery of timely media statements did much to drive state governments and industry stakeholder towards supporting ICANZ position.
Government briefings supported meetings with state ministers attended by the ICANZ CEO and ICANZ members. (See Appendix B.2)
As the value of ICANZ's argument grew, key industry stakeholders came on board and began publicly echoing ICANZ's key messages. For example, letters from key stakeholders were sent directly to the Prime Minister and other federal ministers advocating for improved energy efficiency in buildings. (See Appendix B.6)
Over an 18 month period, five out of the seven states committed funding to new insulation retrofit programs valued at several hundred million dollars.
- Goal 4. Achieve federally funded insulation retrofit programs
In 2007 GRS researched and wrote an ICANZ submission to Treasurer Peter Costello for consideration in the 2007/08 Federal Budget. The submission proposed the establishment of a Home Energy Fund (HEF) to finance the retrofitting of insulation into uninsulated homes.
Politically, the Cabinet did not support the HEF in spite of several ministers acknowledging the value of the scheme during briefings with ICANZ members. The machinations of a preelection Liberal leadership challenge then split the Coalition on factional lines with some more strongly supporting climate change initiatives, while the leadership did not. This denied ICANZ the opportunity of winning majority Cabinet support for the HEF. (See Appendix B.5)
Anticipating that the Coalition would publicly unite again to fight the Federal Election later in the year, GRS planned to take ICANZ's messages into the campaign.
Without alienating any of the major or minor parties, GRS built on the climate change agenda using the various local and international studies economic and health data as supporting evidence. This to ensure that energy efficiency stayed on the climate change agenda and election radar throughout 2007 as a basis to springboard the issue into the campaign period.
GRS led ICANZ through the day-by-day issues evolution and successfully positioned ICANZ and its agenda as a key issue in the crowded campaign agenda. (See Appendix B.4)
Media statements were aimed at encouraging policy announcements by the parties of retrofit programs as means of applying pressure to the incumbent government.
Importantly, GRS succeeded in wresting policy commitments from the ALP Greens and Democrats for improved energy efficiency through funded insulation retrofit programs.
Each party picked up the details of the various studies and information put forward by ICANZ and used it as justification for major policy commitments to a national insulation retrofit programs. (See Appendix B.5.)
With the ALP winning the 2007 election ICANZ had secured from the incoming government a commitment for federal funding for retrofit programs. The ongoing value of the program to ICANZ members is in the order of several hundred million dollars.
The results achieved by GRS so far exceeded client expectations that detailed evaluation was largely superfluous.
- Inclusion of 5-Star energy efficiency measures in the 2006 Building Code of Australia
- 5-Star or its equivalent adopted by state governments (VIC, WA, and SA)
- Introduction of government rebates for retrofitting insulation into existing homes (NSW, VIC, ACT, SA and WA)
- Inclusion of insulation and energy efficiency in NSW BASIX program
- Incorporation of insulation in the Victorian Government’s VEET (Victorian Energy Efficiency Targets) program
- Federal Government retrofit programs
Evaluation was conducted by comparing results achieved against the client's goals, and project objectives.
As evidenced in the examples included in the Appendices, all objectives were achieved:
- Publicly expressed support for improving the energy efficiency of buildings from various industry groups and government and in political party policies
- Federal and State Election campaign promises of interest free loans for domestic energy efficiency improvements, and national retrofit programs to install insulation into non-insulated homes
- An increase in stakeholder website visitors from 800 per month to 8,000+, with many of these hits resulting from ICANZ email campaigns run by GRS. (See Appendix A.4)
- Extensive and ongoing media coverage advocating the benefits of energy efficiency (See Appendix 3)