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Feed the World: Inside DuPont’s Best-of Silver Anvil Campaign


July 22, 2013

PRSA’s recipient of the 2013 Best of Silver Anvil Award is a prime example of not only excellence in public relations, but also how our profession serves the public good — something that our PRServing America program emphasized.

On June 13, PRSA presented the award to DuPont and Ogilvy Public Relations for their “Welcome to the Global Collaboratory: Global Food Security” campaign, an initiative to convene key stakeholders around the issue of food security.

As DuPont’s research showed, the world’s population is expected to increase to 9 billion from 7 billion by 2050. Unless influencers and policymakers find solutions to food security, there may be a global fight to feed the world’s population. Facing these prospects, DuPont laid out a plan for the future.
 
To launch the program, DuPont sponsored a Food Security Goals Forum in February 2012 in Washington, D.C. The event initiated dialogue among thought leaders, and served as a forum for DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman to announce a $10 billion research and development commitment to food, agriculture and biotechnology.

In May 2012, DuPont addressed food security at the G8 Summit in Washington, D.C., and announced that the company had commissioned the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) to develop a Global Food Security Index (GFSI) — a scoring model that assesses the strengths and vulnerabilities around food security in 105 nations.

In all, more than 500 influencers in 10 countries attended the DuPont events, resulting in more than 15 global organizations requesting briefings on food security. Eight partners emerged to join DuPont in its fight, including USAID, John Deere and the Buffett Foundation. Most important, the campaign helped DuPont shed its image as a chemical company and recast itself as a leader in food security.

On June 19, I spoke with Anthony Farina, head of global public affairs and director of corporate communications, DuPont, and Jamie Moeller, managing director, global public affairs practice, Ogilvy Public Relations. The two shared insights about the role public relations played in the campaign. Here is an edited excerpt from our conversation:
 

On the role public relations played in the campaign:

Farina: This effort was a great indication of how public relations can provide both societal and business value. We were able to introduce a critical tool in addressing one of the world’s most pressing challenges — trying to feed the world. There was not a common tool that people could use. From a societal standpoint, we feel so proud to be able to make a difference. 

Three years ago, if you talked to someone and said in the same sentence “DuPont” and “food,” then likely you would get a blank, but polite, stare. People just didn’t associate the company with food when, in fact, more than a third of our revenue is generated from agriculture and food. The power of public relations to me has really taken a whole new step to a different level with this effort. I’m really proud of the work that we’ve done — it’s indicative of what you can do well while doing good.

Moeller: Public relations provided credibility. And all the PR tools that we used in this campaign — influencer outreach, content creation, social media, earned media — provided credibility for what I would say is a visionary campaign. As Anthony said, nobody knew DuPont as a food company. So it really took the tools of public relations and corporate communications to do that more than any of the other marketing and communication disciplines.
 

On the most rewarding part of the campaign personally:

Farina: The most rewarding part of the campaign was that we made a difference in the world. The world needed a common tool to look at food security … and there is now a common tool that the United States can use, that Indonesia can use, that India can use — all in a way that will help address this issue, not only globally, but, most important, locally.
 

On the campaign’s next steps:

Farina: We look at it in a multi-pronged approach. One is to continue the engagement with thought leaders and influencers, governments and NGOs, and other business partners around the world by conducting workshops and seminars to explain how the index works and how people at the local levels can use it.

The second is that we’re taking a global tool, like the Index, and we're bringing it locally. We continue to host dialogs and discussions in important countries around the world.

Finally, we'll be updating the Index later this year. I think you'll see that progress is indeed being made. A lot of work still needs to be done, but it’s heading in the right direction. This tool is only as good as how it's used — particularly at the local levels.
 

On what the campaign taught you about the power of public relations/communications:

Farina: I started my career in journalism. What I learned and really felt in public relations was that you can do well while doing good. This was the big “a-ha!” for me. The power of public relations is alive and well and we can make a difference in the world. In fact, I think we've been able to take it up a notch or so.

Our profession is struggling to think about public relations going forward with the integration of communications — whether it is digital, social media, traditional media. How do we find our niche in this? It all fits in a comprehensive yet strategic way and provides business value, but also societal value.

Moeller: It’s further evidence of the overriding strategic role that public relations can and should play in any sort of groundbreaking campaign. This was a great example of not just managing technical execution, but also devising a corporate position and a corporate strategic plan and program that the PR [function] created, implemented and guided. Public relations [provides] credible information in all its forms these days.

 

John Elsasser John Elsasser is the editor-in-chief of PR Tactics and The Strategist. He joined PRSA in 1994.
Email: john.elsasser at prsa.org



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