General Motors Environmental and Energy Strategy Board

July 22, 2009 MullenLowe

General Motors Environmental and Energy Strategy Board
In 2004, Mullen was hired by General Motors’ Energy and Environment Strategy Board (EESB), which is responsible for developing GM’s global energy and environmental strategy. EESB members include senior leaders from Communications, Engineering, Powertrain, Worldwide Facilities/Manufacturing, Public Policy and Legal, and the Research and Development and Planning area. We have developed far-reaching campaigns to spotlight GM’s multi-pronged approach to reducing the dependence on petroleum, such as improvements in the internal combustion engine (including flex-fuel vehicles), hybrids, electric and ultimately fuel cell vehicles.

GM’s E85 Days of Summer/Fall Tour
In 2007, we developed the E85 Days of Summer and Fall Tours to educate consumers about the benefits of E85 ethanol. This was an important grassroots campaign for GM, since its chairman, Rick Wagoner, had recently made it a priority across all GM businesses to promote E85. GM believes that ethanol has the greatest short-term potential to actually reduce U.S. oil consumption. Therefore, producing FlexFuel vehicles (vehicles that can run on any combination of gasoline and ethanol) has become a big part of GM’s strategy to help displace petroleum and reduce vehicle emissions.

At the same time, ethanol, particularly corn-based ethanol, has come under increased scrutiny as a result of well orchestrated campaigns by the oil industry and organizations including the American Petroleum Institute, OPEC, etc. To continue a drumbeat of positive news around E85, Mullen helped create two consecutive programs known as “GM’s E85 Days of Summer” and later “GM’ E85 Fall Kick Off Tour” that ran from June-November, 2007.

Program Objectives

Combat the onslaught of negative publicity around E85 ethanol by consistently seeding media with positive messages.
Continue to support ethanol as the biofuel with the greatest potential to displace petroleum in the United States.
Get the word out to both media and consumers that GM has a strong position and voice in the national conversation on oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions.

Media/Marketing Tour: Mullen worked with GM to conduct three-day programs that combined editorial board meetings and media roundtables with consumer-facing activities. These included E85 ethanol public forums, and events at ethanol pumps where E85 was offered at a promotional price of 85 cents per gallon. All of these events were focused on promoting GM’s position on E85 as the near-term alternative fuel solution, while dispelling myths and misinformation. Markets included: Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Miami, Denver, Tucson, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Milwaukee.

GM Internal Communications: Working with GM’s internal communications team, an on-line portal was created within GM’s intranet site to help educate employees about the benefits of ethanol and update them on the tour’s progress. Employee activities were conducted at GM plants in the markets along the tour.

Partners: Throughout the tour we developed strategic partnerships to assist in the effort. Partners included: VeraSun, HEB, Kroger, Argonne National Labs, U-Gas, CleanFUEL, Clean Cities Coalition, Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority, American Lung Association, Great West Ethanol, University of Colorado-Boulder, Enterprise, NC Solar Center at NC State

Third-Party Network: Simultaneously, Mullen assisted GM in building a third-party network of “friends of ethanol” who can be tapped as resources and quotable experts on the topic. We leveraged these third-party relationships in a national radio media tour, which meant we had someone speaking on the topic of ethanol on the radio in markets across the country almost every day. We also coordinated on-camera interviews of these experts to address misconceptions about ethanol for video news releases that were sent out nationally throughout the summer.

Research and Rapid Response Program:
Mullen has done extensive research on the topic of ethanol and put together detailed talking points that address the negative messages spread against ethanol. We also have developed a news monitoring system to monitor ethanol news each morning and have created a Rapid Response team that includes our third-party experts so we can quickly respond to anti-ethanol messages in the media.

The tours delivered more than 230 unique media mentions  (TV, radio, print, blogs)
More than 40 million media impressions
More than 19,400 gallons of ethanol were sold through the 85-cent pump promotions
At least one key partner attended each event