Slovenia is a small country in Central Europe which had a colossal problem: air pollution. While it only has a little over two million people, most of the buildings, schools, and especially the houses, in the 1990s were powered and heated by burning coal, wood, and oil.
Making matters worse, most of the urban areas are situated where air inversions happen frequently during the winter months. When this happens, a dense layer of colder polluted air becomes trapped under warmer air in the atmosphere, intensifying the pollution and making breathing more difficult.
While the country had taken some steps to reduce air pollution generated by some of its power stations, it was not nearly enough to have a sizable impact on the problem. More steps were needed by the general population — especially in their homes — to reduce the air pollution. But being a new and emerging country, the government was stymied as to how this would be accomplished.
About 1995, a consortium including the European Commission and the World Bank created a fund – known as the Eco-Fund – from which Slovenians could borrow money at low interest rates to convert their home heating systems from operating on fossil fuels to using cleaner energy sources, such as natural gas.
PR is an ideal vehicle for explaining things,
such as the benefits of a new product or service.
Now what had to be done was tell the country’s citizens about the program and sell them on it so that they would take advantage of it. To do this, a public relations program was implemented. The program consisted of the following strategies:
- An “Open Day” reception was held with the managers of local energy supply companies, business executives, and journalists to brief people on the Eco-Fund, its goals of reducing the pollution problem in the country, and how the program worked.
- Next was a series of seminars and training programs held throughout the country. People had to be educated on the following key issues: why the air pollution was so detrimental to their health; how it was negatively impacting the business climate in the country; and how the Eco-Fund was designed and worked to make it easy for citizens to transfer to cleaner energy sources
- Radio talk shows are big in Slovenia, so the PR professionals took to the air further discussing the issues and why cleaner air was an imperative.
- A total of 27 articles discussing the pollution issues were printed in the country’s national press and 35 in the regional press during a period of approximately 12 months.
- Brochures were printed, and a toll-free number was established so people could ask questions about the Eco-Fund program and even sign up.
- Finally, a national roundtable was held involving the country’s ministers of the environment and physical planning, economic development, Chambers of Commerce, and other government and business leaders further promoting the program.
The campaign did include some advertising, however the bulk of the “get the message out” was handled by PR.
And public relations can do wonders in a situation like this because the air pollution problem and its long-term health and business ramifications had to be explained. PR is an ideal vehicle for explaining things, such as the benefits of a new product or service.
It can be tough to explain a situation or an issue in an advertisement. People need to hear and read about it, and that is exactly why this PR campaign worked.
So, what were the results?
- The first year, homeowners were simply told about the program, and it resulted in 117 Eco-Fund loans.
- But ten months later, when the PR campaign was in full swing, that number jumped to 1,896 loans, a tenfold increase
And the numbers kept increasing through 1997.
Initially, the Eco-Fund was to expire in 1997, but due to its success, funds were made available through 1998 helping the country make a noticeable dent in its air pollution problem, which contributed to improving the health and business climate for the entire country.