April Town Hall: Cracking the Code on Successful Public Awareness Campaigns: What Works and Why?

We at Excavation Safety Alliance (ESA) recently celebrated the two-year anniversary of our Town Hall series with a deep dive into the strategies and successes of public awareness campaigns. Moderated by our CEO, Scott Landes, the panel featured industry experts sharing invaluable insights and lessons learned from their respective campaigns. Here's a closer look at the key highlights and innovative approaches discussed during the event.

Panelists and Campaign Highlights

Glen “Cookie” Cook kicked off the discussion by emphasizing the critical importance of the "Look Up And Live" campaign. This initiative, centered around safety near overhead powerlines, highlighted a sobering statistic: a ratio of 25 overhead to 1 underground strike. Cookie elaborated on the campaign's longstanding slogan, its ongoing efforts to reduce fatalities related to powerlines, and innovative tools like a mapping application available at LookUpAndLive.com. He also touched on the campaign's use of QR code stickers for enhanced safety awareness.

Mell Greenall, CEO of Before You Dig Australia, shared insights from their nationally recognized "Don’t Dig Blind" campaign. This initiative, deeply embedded in every communication piece, leverages fear-based messaging effectively. Mell highlighted the campaign's impressive reach, including 1,000 toolbox talks conducted last year with over 15,000 participants. Additionally, television and radio campaigns, strategically timed around major sporting events and across various genres, have further amplified the message. The panel agreed that fear-based messaging has proven to be highly effective, with toolbox talks emerging as a standout engagement tool.

Whitney Price, VP of Operations at ACTS Now, Inc., introduced the Pipeline Ag Safety Alliance's unique approach to safety in rural environments. This initiative, launched in 2015, adopts a "train the trainer" model, collaborating closely with agriculture and extension agents. Whitney emphasized the pivotal role of these agents as trusted resources, capable of reaching hundreds of farmers and ranchers. By understanding how best to communicate safety information to the end audience, the alliance has successfully disseminated crucial safety practices across agricultural communities.

Perry Silvey, Safety Manager at BT Construction, Inc. in Colorado, shed light on the "Think Inside The Box" campaign. This initiative stemmed from a tragic trench collapse incident and advocates for the utilization of existing protective systems. Perry detailed the campaign's evolution, from spreading the message among safety professionals to partnering with local notification centers for on-the-ground training. The campaign's use of hardhat stickers and incorporation of the logo into company branding have garnered significant attention and support within the industry.

Tim Teel, Senior Damage Prevention Coordinator at Summit Utilities, Inc., delved into the "Detect>Dash>Dial" campaign by the Distribution Pipeline Awareness Council. Originating as an analogy to the stop, drop, and roll message for fire safety, this initiative prioritizes social media engagement, grassroots efforts, and strategic messaging through stickers and other organic campaigns.

Key Discussion Points

The Town Hall discussion extended beyond campaign highlights to address critical questions and challenges faced by public awareness initiatives:

  • Target Audience Engagement: The panelists stressed the importance of crafting messages that resonate with diverse audiences, including bilingual messaging strategies. They emphasized the value of consulting subject matter experts before engaging advertising agencies to ensure messages are tailored effectively.

  • Messaging and Impact: Balancing shock and awe messaging with economic impact narratives emerged as a key discussion point. Panelists shared insights on weaving humor into campaigns for enhanced engagement while maintaining a focus on safety and awareness.

  • Collaboration and Partnerships: Leveraging partnerships with state, federal agencies, and regulators was highlighted as a strategic approach to amplify campaign reach and impact. By collaborating with key stakeholders, campaigns can benefit from broader visibility and support.

Key Takeaways

The Town Hall concluded with actionable takeaways for industry professionals and organizations embarking on public awareness campaigns:

  • Persistence: Acknowledge that building traction takes time and effort. Start with small initiatives and consistently build momentum over time.

  • Adaptability: Embrace low-cost, agile approaches, leveraging social media and grassroots initiatives to reach audiences effectively.

  • Audience-Centric Approach: Prioritize understanding the target audience and tailor messages accordingly. Engage with stakeholders and subject matter experts to ensure campaigns resonate with the intended audience.

The insights shared during ESA's April Town Hall underscored the power of collaboration, innovation, and targeted messaging in driving successful public awareness campaigns within the utility and excavation safety industry. By learning from best practices and experiences, industry professionals can enhance their campaigns and contribute to a safer, more informed community.

Curious to see what else was discussed in the chat? View the Chat Log.

Want to hear everything that was discussed by our panelists? View the full Town Hall.

Learn more about each of the initiatives by clicking on the links below:

Sign up for May 9th's Town Hall, Responsible Fiber Deployment: Strategies for Protection and Damage Prevention



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