Monday, April 6, 2009

Boone's Army is on the March!

I’ve written about the Pickens Plan before. Although having $58 million to spend on creating and energizing a community doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t guarantee being smart. I watch on a daily basis, and what I see is consistent effort, good community management, and considerable activity taking place within the community. All is indicative of a well-conceived, well-managed effort. Seems to me Boone Pickens is getting his money’s worth, although I’m sure he would say that the real proof will be getting elements of his plan put into action.

To continue the push, Wednesday through Friday of last week there was a Virtual March on Washington—the first thing just like it that I’ve seen. Once again, it was well organized and flawlessly executed. He explains much of what’s going on in this video. According to the website today 4,558,010 people took part. That sort of participation doesn’t take place by accident!

People who are members of the plan--”Boone’s Army” he calls them—were informed multiple times about the coming event. Members can set preferences for frequency of content, and if I investigated the timing carefully I’m sure I’d find that they were timed so every member with email contact got at least one message. Most of us got several.

Each day, Wednesday through Friday, members of the Army got a message—from Boone himself, of course—urging participation. Each day had a different theme to encourage repeat participation. When you clicked through to the site, you found it well organized to support the march.

What impressed me most was the message page. It had the usual prepared message, but this one was easy to edit, unlike others I’ve used. Most impressive of all was the list of recipients. Along with the usual suspects, it included “Your U.S. Senators” and “Your U.S. House Representative.” The contact info in step 2 is optional, but my guess is that they have congressional district in their database for virtually all members (they’ve worked hard on that also). They could personalize correctly whether the sender choose to include contact information or not (and apparently some of our elected representatives do require it in order to receive email messages). This application was powered by Capitol Advantage. Turns out that’s the publisher of print Congressional directories, and they now have an email personalization product. Cool! Especially since it works!! The acknowledgment message contained the names of my senators and representatives to prove that it did.

Once again, Boone Pickens and the generals of his Army (whoever those generals may be; I still can’t find out) seem to have done it all right. They built up interest, motivated people to participate, and gave the appropriate autonotification. I expect the website to be updated in a day or two with a follow-up on the march, doubtlessly accompanied by another video from Boone.

I keep recommending the Pickens Plan as a best practices site for non-profits. None of the ones I know have $58 million to spend, but the truth is that a lot of that went for television to jump start the Plan in the initial stages. The online portion can be copied by all but the very smallest non-profits; they’ll just have to be satisfied with building participants more slowly.

What can corporate marketers take away from this? Good management of social media programs for one thing. My sense is that Boone Pickens has no interest in seeing any of his money wasted. Beyond that, in a new media age, corporations should think about being a participant themselves. You can see several corporate partners on the site. Owens Corning was one of the early supporters—an obvious tie-in with their energy-saving product lines.

This is the age of the soft sell—not the hard sell or the intrusive ad. Non-profits do good. Corporations can do well by supporting carefully-chosen non-profits.

Three stakeholders win—the non-profits, the corporations, and society as a whole!

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