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conflicting messages
Forrest W. Anderson
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Case Studies and Testimonials

Developing a Messaging Strategy for the Boy Scouts
of America.

In response to increasing numbers of alternative activities for young people, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) were concerned about a drop-off in Cub Scout and adult volunteer enrollment rates. They asked Forrest W. Anderson, through communications agency Burson-Marsteller (BM), to help them develop messages that would attract seven-year old boys, their parents and the adult volunteers who are central to the success of the organization. 

Using existing messages as a starting point, we designed research to develop messages that would appeal to all three of these groups.  We conducted focus groups with parents and adult volunteers in four cities across the United States.  We hired a specialist in research with children to conduct focus groups with seven-year-old boys in two of these cities.  In the groups, we explored attitudes toward the BSA and then shared a statement BM drafted describing what BSA was all about.  This statement was based on BM interviews with BSA leadership.  We asked respondents to edit the statement to say what they thought it should and then asked what they had written.  In the discussion that followed, respondents shared their perceptions of what BSA was and should be.  After each set of groups, we revised the statement to reflect the changes focus group participants suggested.  By the last focus group, respondents made no substantive changes in the statements. 

The team had achieved messages that stated BSA leadership's vision in the language these target audiences found persuasive.

Environmental and Corporate Positioning for Weyerhaeuser.

The CEO of Weyerhaeuser, the forestry products company, was concerned that the organization was sending out to its stakeholders confusing and conflicting messages about the company’s policies on the environment.  As Director of Research and Account Planning for Golin/Harris, Forrest W. Anderson led a team of agency-account and research staff in a project to develop an environmental message platform for the company. 

We interviewed senior and middle management, tapped into a survey Weyerhaeuser was already doing with employees and reviewed research Weyerhaeuser had done already with activist groups and investment analysts.  Target audiences ranged from investment analysts who wanted to hear a very conservative environmental policy, to environmental activists, who wanted to hear a very liberal policy.  We developed a set of consistent messages that expressed management's point of view while appealing to the interests of each target audience.  The team worked up from this set of messages to create an over-arching message for all target audiences. 

Weyerhaeuser was so pleased with this work that it asked us back to do the corporate positioning for the company.  Some seven years later, Montye Male, at that time the head of Weyerhaeuser's Corporate Communications, told us that the work we did still drove all the company's communications.

Assessing the Strength of Relationships and Communications Effectiveness for the National Governing Board (NGB) of an Olympic Sport . 

The CEO and Board of Trustees of the NGB of a US Olympic Winter Sport were concerned that the organization's business model was changing and communications may not be keeping up.

Working with Linhart Public Relations, we used a relationship measurement technique as a key part of the NGB audit.  Those we surveyed included current and potential team athletes, their parents and coaches, donors and trustees.  The data showed relationships were strong across all but two of six critical relationship factors:  Exchange and Mutual Control. 

The ratings on Exchange seemed appropriate.  However, the Mutual Control issue did not.  The NGB needed commitment to training, integrity and itself from athletes and coaches, and money from donors.  The athletes and coaches wanted financial and logistic support from the NGB.  Donors wanted to see performance, integrity and support for the NGB from the athletes who reach the podium.  But most stakeholder groups did not believe the client listened or responded to their wants and needs.  The data enabled us to show the client that to achieve its goals, it needed to listen better and actually respond to stakeholder concerns, rather than ignore them. 

In addition we found that while the NGB was relying on press coverage to get most of its messages out, virtually every audience reported they got most of their information through word of mouth.  This was particularly true of athletes.

The client applauded the presentation and the CEO noted "After conducting thorough, fact-based research, Linhart PR developed smart, pragmatic recommendations that will help shape our organization’s future for many years to come."

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