Celebrating International Year of the Forests

How We Planted the Seeds of a Campaign That Could Grow to Involve Everyone

By Published on .

Like most marketing professionals, we feel that a great campaign starts with a great product -- or, in the case of our firm, Carousel30, a great cause. While we have created a successful niche for cause-marketing programs and philanthropic campaigns for more than 40 nonprofits across the country, the work we are doing for the International Year of Forests is different.

The U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters partnered with us to create the national campaign for an international, yearlong program created by the United Nations General Assembly. The International Year of Forests 2011 was established to recognize people's actions to sustainably manage the world's trees and forests. It has lofty goals -- to reverse the loss of forest cover and enhance forests' economic, social and environmental benefits -- but the U.S. campaign's goal is simple: Celebrate our forests.

Officially called "Celebrate Forests. Celebrate Life," the effort includes a website and social media components. But what has really made the campaign work has been the holistic approach behind it. The goal was to encourage people and communities across the country to celebrate forests, so the campaign was designed around these four focus areas: clean air and water, healthy ecosystems, healthy economies and healthy people and communities.

To do this, we incorporated nontraditional elements such as a photography fellowship and an event toolkit. The fellowship awarded a 10-week journey to a photojournalist to "capture the elusive soul of the American forest." While much of the campaign focuses on the tangible impact of forests on our economies and ecosystems, the awarded photographer was tasked with documenting less quantifiable human relationships with forests. The photographs have been featured in the Huffington Post and are now assembled in a traveling exhibition.

The toolkit was created as a way to make it easier for groups of any size across the country to design and host their own "IYOF"-branded celebration events and includes banner ads, HTML email templates, T-shirt templates, posters, proclamations and fact sheets. And it's working -- there have been more than 120 events hosted to date. Additional aspects of the program include traditional public relations, grassroots marketing, media relations and email marketing.

As with so many of our cause-marketing projects, one of the most fulfilling aspects of the "IYOF" campaign is the knowledge we have gained about forests and the ways their health impacts the health of our communities, the nation and the world. Some interesting forest facts: There are 751 million acres of forestland in the U.S. While federal and state governments manage much of that , more than half is privately owned. Forestry and other related industries employ 2.9 million people nationally. Ninety percent of wood products in America come from private forests. Twenty-five percent of America's freshwater flows out of , and is filtered by , private forests.

While it feels good to use our marketing talents to help organizations such as the National Association of State Foresters, it is also very enriching for us as a creative team to get an in-depth education on these issues and how they impact our world. Then we take that education and communicate it broadly so that others can understand it, too. Take notice of the forests and trees around you, across the country and the world. How do they support you?

Breeanna Beckham is director of marketing, Carousel30, Washington, D.C.
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