UTS Library

Better Place The Future is Electric

Client: 

Better Place Australia

PR Company: 

n2n Communications

Award Type: 

Call Number: 

2010 C10 - 7

Year: 

2010

Executive Summary: 

When Better Place entered the Australian market in October 2008, there was a high degree of scepticism from media and key stakeholders about the viability of electric vehicles (EVs) as a sustainable transport solution.

 

Better Place had an ambitious goal to roll out EV infrastructure in Australia from 2012. With a tight timeframe, and limited budget, the PR challenge was to get the issue of EVs high on the national and business news agenda in order to build the company’s reputation locally and support its business goals to engage partners, attract capital and influence key stakeholders.

 

To achieve this, the PR program focused on building strong media relationships and developing compelling angles from local and global news announcements to successfully generate significant coverage in national print and broadcast media.

 

In the first 12 months of the program, coverage of EVs in Australian media doubled, with more than half of the coverage a direct result of Better Place’s PR program. The majority (70 per cent) of coverage was in news, business and national affairs media reaching Better Place’s key stakeholders – investors, governments and industry partners.

Situation Analysis: 

Reduction of carbon emissions is one of the highest priorities for governments, business and individuals around the world. Internationally, EVs have gained significant momentum in the race to find a viable and sustainable alternative to emission producing oil-based transport.

 

In Australia, however, EVs were relatively unknown. There was base level awareness of the concept of EVs, yet the realities of building viable, large scale EV infrastructure had not been explored.

 

Better Place’s mission is to accelerate the move from an oil-based car industry to vehicles powered by zero emission, renewable energy. It entered the Australian market in October 2008. 

 

When Better Place Australia appointed n2n communications in April 2009 it had less than 10 staff and was undergoing initial capital raising for its Australian operations. Media and stakeholders were sceptical about the viability of EVs based on perceived barriers of short range, high battery cost and inconvenience of recharging.

 

To attract capital and industry and government support for the EV model, there were two key challenges for Better Place:

 

1.    Convincing key decision makers in business, government and motoring that EVs provided a viable, sustainable transport alternative to petrol-powered vehicles

2.    A lack of awareness of Better Place that required building the company’s reputation, proving it had global momentum as well as relevance in the Australian market.

 

The PR program aimed to address these challenges by generating prominent, factual and influential media coverage that reached key stakeholders.

Research: 

Research:

 

n2n communications undertook an audit of key stakeholders, influencers, media and bloggers/social media to determine current awareness and attitudes.

 

Key findings:

  • As an emerging solution in the sustainable transport sector, EVs were often misrepresented and viewed with scepticism;
  • Perceived barriers to mass adoption were typically based on out-dated assumptions about battery technology and range limitations;
  • Considerable research and data existed (environmental, economic and industry) to support the case for EVs but it was either global, academic or complex and not widely promoted;
  • There was minimal awareness of Better Place in Australia;

The research also identified three main challenges:

  • Cut-through:
    • Better Place was entering a crowded media environment; environmental issues were high on the public agenda and there was a noisy debate in the Australian media as businesses realigned to the increasingly green agenda.
  • Competition:
    • Better Place’s model was unique; however it was one of many solutions on the table.  It was critical to differentiate the Better Place model from other unproven, short-term clean-technology solutions in the market.
  • Building an Australian face:
    • While Australians are typically early adopters of new technology, they can be wary of global companies without a genuine local track record or recognisable ‘Australian face’ (local team).
    • It would be critical to establish the credentials and profile of Better Place’s Australian management team as part of the PR program.

Target Policies: 

The target publics for the first year of the program were:

 

Media: The campaign targeted print, online and broadcast media with a specific focus on the following sectors:

o   Environment

o   Business

o   Motoring

o   Canberra (planned initial site for the Better Place network rollout)

 

Rationale for targeting:

o   Elevate the focus on EVs out of the motoring media and onto the national agenda

o   Support Better Place’s business goal, to convince key decision makers in business, government and motoring that EVs provide a viable, sustainable transport alternative to petrol-powered vehicles

 

Potential investors:Including large organisations and high net worth individuals.

 

Rationale for targeting:

o   To support the business goal of attracting capital

 

Government: including government agencies and representatives in environment, sustainable transport, infrastructure and renewable energy.

 

Rationale for targeting:

o   To support Better Place’s government relations program

Communication Strategy: 

The strategy for year one focused on building awareness of Better Place in Australia, stimulating debate about EVs in the media and increasing knowledge of the category through:

 

o   Media 1:1s to build relationships and educate

o   Major milestone announcements

o   Strategic media pieces that tell the story and build Better Place’s reputation

o   Executive positioning

o   Leveraging influencers

 

Media relations was identified as a crucial awareness raising tool within Better Place’s limited PR budget to effectively raise the company profile.

Implementation: 

The campaign was executed between April 2009 to April 2010 and consisted of three stages:

 

1.    Planning & preparation

  • Research, development of key messages, identification of key media, influencers and bloggers. 

2.    Roll out

  • Media interviews with target news, business and motoring journalists:
    • n2n secured more than 61 interviews for Better Place Australia CEO Evan Thornley that resulted in high-quality, accurate coverage as well as positioning Evan as a go-to for media comment on EVs, sustainable transport and broader environmental policy issues.
  • Leverage existing media issues as a platform for Better Place thought leadership and commentary.  
  • Positioning Better Place alongside established Australian leaders in media coverage.  E.g:
    • Joint media events with governments/universities
    • Funding announcements with CEOs from leading Australian businesses. E.g. Lend Lease
  • Pitching local milestones in the context of the broader local and global momentum. E.g. local executive announcements, funding announcements, partnerships linked to global milestones or broader EV momentum and leveraging global executive visits. E.g. Shai Agassi, Global CEO visit.
    • n2n arranged an executive lunch briefing for Shai Agassi and Evan Thornley with The Age. Six media attended the lunch including environment, resources, motoring and opinion journalists.
    • 14 additional media interviews were secured with the AFR, BRW, Herald Sun, ABC programs PM and Lateline, The Australian and SMH.
    • 29 articles were generated across key national and metropolitan media.
  • Proactive news generation through effective pitching of local and global news. This included opportunities for media to participate in Better Place demonstrations internationally. E.g. 

    Yokohama
    Demonstration
    • Better Place demonstrated the world’s first battery switch technology and electric car charging spots in Yokohama, Japan.
    • n2n secured 1:1 interviews with business, motoring and environment as well as Tokyo correspondents.
    • Eight articles were generated across major daily national papers as well as key industry verticals.

      Frankfurt
      Motor Show
    • Better Place demonstrated its EV services platform at this major annual motoring industry event. Interviews were secured with key Australian motoring journalists.

      Cop15
    • Better Place and Renault demonstrated their vision for mass-market, zero-emission vehicles through a technology showcase that included test drives of EVs and stationary charge spot demonstrations.  
    • n2n identified local media at the conference and secured 1:1 interviews and test drives.  
  • Additional tactics to maintain momentum including: local executive profiling (Australian face); thought leadership; features; reactive media requests – evaluation and response; blogger relations.

3.    Monitoring, Evaluation, Modification

o   Engaging with media to correct inaccuracies or pitch follow up stories based on program monitoring and evaluation

o   Adjusting messaging and media strategies in response to industry comment and the media agenda

o   Quarterly reviews to track progress and modify strategies as required

Results: 

n2n secured more than 196 articles on Better Place across print, broadcast and online media. This included more than 40 stories in national news and business media that played a significant role in elevating debate about EVs from a fringe issue in the automotive sector to a mainstream debate.

 

n2n secured Australian media coverage of every Better Place local and global announcement. This included local interviews, quotes from international spokespeople, research and data, third party endorsements and photos/videos demonstrating the technology in practice.

 

Results centred on coverage generation, media engagement and a sustained share of voice in industry commentary.

 

  • Coverage: 196 clips (Fig 1.1 and Fig 1.2)
  • Media engagement: 61 media interviews (Fig 1.3)
  • Thought leadership: 21 pieces of coverage secured, from a combination of bylines, features, Q&A’s and blog posts 

Fig 1.1

 
Results diagram


Fig 1.2


Results diagram 2 

 

Fig 1.3

Results diagram 3

Evaluation: 

Objective

Measured by

Result

Build the company’s reputation locally and support its business goals to engage partners, attract capital and influence key stakeholders.

Generation of positive media coverage and promoting established relationships with key industry influencers from tier one publications

Local funding announcement:

  • Lend Lease announcement: exclusive briefing with AFR.

Five articles generated.

  • Royal Automobile Club Victoria investment: exclusive interviews with ABC Inside Business and the Herald Sun. Five articles generated.

 

Global funding announcement:

  • Pre-briefings with the AFR and The Australian.

 

Overall Media Interest:

  • 16 announcements made (both global and local developments)
  • 61 1:1 media interviews
  • 196 clips generated

 

Objective

Measured by

Result

Convince key decision makers in business, government and motoring that EVs provide a viable, sustainable transport alternative to petrol-powered vehicles.

 

Evidence suggesting consumer demand for EVs and inclusion of Better Place in sustainable transport media coverage.  

Better Place conducted a multi-national survey that revealed more than one in three car buyers in Eastern Australia are interested in an EV for their next car purchase.

 

Coverage secured with:

  • The Age
  • The Australian
  • ABC PM
  • Triple M

 

 

Objective

Measured by

Result

Demonstrate global momentum towards electric vehicles by elevating EV coverage from automotive media into mainstream news and business media.

Media engagement in Better Place international demonstrations.

 

Creating a platform for Better Place thought leadership and commentary.

 

Pitching local Better Place milestones in the context of global momentum of the business.

Media attendance at:

  • Yokohama Demonstration
  • Frankfurt Motor Show
  • COP 15

 

Objective

Measured by

Result

Educate and build relationships with key target media to achieve sustained, accurate media coverage.

 

Ongoing executive profiling and involvement in key industry events.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Results for phase one of the Better Place PR program are:  

  • Coverage: 196 clips
  • Media engagement: 61 media interviews conducted
  • Thought leadership opportunities: 21 pieces of coverage secured, from a combination of bylines, features, Q&A’s and blog posts
  • More than 31 reactive/proactive media enquiries with key trade titles and blogs.

Overall Evaluation:

 

Better Place’s PR program was highly successful in raising the profile of Better Place Australia, and tackling media and stakeholder perceptions about barriers to mass-adoption of EVs.

 

Significantly, coverage of EVs in key Australian target media (i.e. news and business press) more than doubled as a result of the Better Place PR program from 102 articles in 08/09 (two mentioning Better Place) to 227 in 09/10 of which 115 mentioned Better Place. This means the Better Place PR program doubled coverage of the category in the space of 12 months.

 

The results summarised by the client:

 

“In the first twelve months of Better Place’s operations in Australia we were very clear on our business goals – raise funds, forge strategic partnerships and build momentum around EVs for Australia – while also addressing misconceptions in the marketplace about the viability or application of our model here.

 

“We knew this would be no mean feat. We were realistic about the challenges ahead and understood the role a well executed PR program would play in helping to overcome them and support our goals.

 

“The quality of business media that the program generated was invaluable in ensuring that when we entered meetings with government, industry or potential investors they not only knew who Better Place was and what we stood for as a business but had a sense of the enormous momentum behind this category and the critical role Better Place would play in realising Australia’s EV future. The PR program delivered by n2n was fundamental to our achievement of some major milestones in the first year of our operations.”  Alison Terry, Head of Corporate Affairs, Better Place Australia.