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Media tools to reach and teach.

As threats to the environment and natural ecosystems have become more complex and pervasive, the National Audubon Society has broadened its array of strategies to meet the challenge. We have worked for legislation. Set up wildlife sanctuaries. Launched educational initiatives. Conducted research.

In the process, we have earned a reputation as one of America's leading environmental voices. And we have worked comfortably and successfully with companies as diverse as General Electric, Waste Management, and Motown Record Co.

Audubon has collaborated with major corporations for one reason -- it has been in our concrete interest. We have benefitted from business expertise, garnered both from business executives who serve on Audubon's board and from business experts with whom we have partnered on environmental projects, and we have had the opportunity to shape the views and awareness of corporate decisionmakers in the process. We suspect that our business partners have enjoyed similar benefits in return.

Critical to our environmental mission is the work of National Audubon Society Productions. We use media technologies of all kinds to foster citizen action for a sustainable environment. School videos, interactive CDs, IMAX films, dramatic movies, computer screens, to say nothing of living room TV sets, are crucial vehicles for conveying the idea that the Earth is ours to save.

Some of our most successful business partnerships have involved Audubon's media projects, which tend to offer corporations unique and high-visibility opportunities for demonstrating their environmental concern to important publics.

Using documentaries, debate programs, music videos, dramatic films, computer software, and other media, Audubon Productions reaches far beyond the "card-carrying" environmental community. In fact, we target our messages at three different markets.

Interestingly, these are markets highly prized by corporations. As corporate marketing efforts emphasize more and more "relationship" marketing, it is increasingly clear that attention must be paid to values or incentives that reach far beyond price and convenience to secure customer loyalty. And one of the values clearly on the rise is environmentalism. Customers prefer to associate with companies that are perceived as environmentally sensitive.

One market for Audubon consists of special individuals the Roper Organization calls "Influentials" -- the folks at whom corporations aim their image advertising campaigns. Roper has identified about 10% of the American public who are our most socially and politically alert and active citizens. These are the active and well-educated people who set the nation's social and political agenda. Environmentalists and corporations alike fight for their hearts and minds.

Audubon Productions -- and our corporate sponsors -- speak to these "Influentials" with our most substantive television programming. Our "Word of Audubon" documentaries provide in-depth treatment of environment and ecosystem issues to viewers of public television and Turner Broadcasting. And our soon-to-be-launched weekly series, "Clearing the Air," examines these issues in a provocative discussion format that includes the diverse voices of Daniel Schorr, John Sununu, and leading environmentalists like former EPA Administrator Bill Reilly. These two Audubon television series, aimed at "Influentials," would meet the quality and fairness standards of any forward-looking corporation in America.

A second audience with whom Audubon communicates is the middle-of-the- road American consumer. Without a doubt, most Americans are not especially political -- they don't lobby Congress or City Hall, they don't organize grassroots campaigns, they don't contribute to candidates or issue groups, many don't even vote. Yet many -- indeed most -- consider themselves "environmentalists," when polled. And all of them are consumers.

We target this audience with a different kind of message, delivered through other television vehicles. "Audubon Reports" consists of regular brief news reports with a consumer slant on environmentalism -- how to recycle, how to conserve energy, and so on. And our new specials on The Disney Channel emphasize how individual lifestyles can affect endangered wildlife and habitats.

While most Americans might not be political activists, most are willing, even eager, in their day-to-day consumer behavior to make choices about products and services that will benefit the environment. We at Audubon are there with entertaining, non-pedantic programming to help them make those important, informed choices. More and more, corporations will compete to be on the winning side of environmentally informed consumer choices.

Audubon's third audience -- young people of elementary and high school age -- might be our most important target of all. Any corporation that has studied the interests of young people knows that protecting the environment ranks consistently and emphatically as their No. 1 concern. Corporations marketing to kids have no doubt about this pronounced concern.

This is a concern that Audubon is determined to transform into responsible consumer behavior, and even political activism. After all, these environmentally aware young people are the "Influentials" and consumers of the future. They are surprisingly aware of the stakes involved in protecting the planet and fully prepared to hold the rest of us accountable.

Therefore, Audubon Productions has made a special commitment to develop media tools specifically to reach young people. Our environmental software is award-winning and bestselling. With state-of-the-art partners like Philips, LucasArts, and Tandy, we are just releasing multi-media educational products built upon environmental themes. And our music videos featuring environmental messages are played on television in the United States and throughout the Caribbean.

A Careful Match

The point of Audubon's multi-faceted media program, all of which has benefitted from corporate support and partnerships, is to make the environment the business of everyone. Given this mission, we realize that effective communication requires careful matching of messages, distribution vehicles, and audiences -- and respect for the accuracy of information and the intelligence of our viewers, be they "Influentials," "average" American consumers, or just plain kids.

At Audubon, we are convinced that if we present our "product" -- a safe and healthy environment -- with integrity, our audience will indeed respond in support of the planet. Without doubt, this is where the "audience" is headed. Smart corporations realize that Winning corporations will be those that, with equal integrity, offer products and services and operate in ways that respect the environmental sensibilities that increasingly guide American consumers.

Christopher N. Palmer is Senior Vice President of the National Audubon Society and President of its National Audubon Society Productions, in which capacity he oversees all of the organization's television and mass media projects. He joined the National Audubon Society in 1981 as Director of Energy and Environment, having previously served with the Environmental Protection Agency. He describes how Audubon Productions plays a unique role in advancing environmental responsibility and the marketing opportunity it creates for corporations that partner with it.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Directors and Boards
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Special Section: Answering the Call for Leadership; Leadership in Environmental Initiatives
Author:Palmer, Christopher N.
Publication:Directors & Boards
Date:Sep 22, 1993
Previous Article:Partnering for good works.
Next Article:The right message to shareholders.

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