ecoAmerica and the Sierra Club Unveil Groundbreaking Communications Research

(Washington, D.C. October 3 2006)—Today ecoAmerica and the Sierra Club shared the results of the American Environmental Values Survey conducted by SRIC-BI—a pioneering market research firm—with journalists, environmental advocates, and others during a briefing held in Washington, D.C. The survey is an important new tool that combines traditional survey research with cutting-edge psychographic research modeling—a technique commonly used in consumer marketing, but rarely put to work in advocacy communications.

The findings of the survey will equip environmental advocates with the knowledge they need to better align their communications strategy with the shifting attitudes of the American public.

“The survey deepens our understanding of the values that underlie how Americans think about the environment – and frankly it shows that one-size fits all messaging will not work,” said Bob Perkowitz, ecoAmerica’s founder and Chairman. “We want to make more sophisticated market research tools available to environmentalists and work with them to develop more powerful communications that connect environmental protection with Americans’ core values and everyday concerns.”

The key finding of the survey was that environmental beliefs and values in America are far from monolithic, meaning that universalist appeals are unlikely to significantly increase support for environmental policy initiatives. The public can be segmented into myriad groups whose support for or opposition to environmental initiatives is motivated by highly disparate values. Consequently, a one-size-fits-all message is likely to motivate some segments of the population, while alienating others. The survey’s findings detail the motivations and values of each sub-group and propose the most appropriate outreach strategy for motivating that particular segment of the public on a given issues.

“While the survey highlights the increasing difficulty of motivating the public as a whole on environmental issues, it also shows us the way forward,” said Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director. “As the public has become more segmented and sophisticated, the corporate world has adapted to that by using more sophisticated communications and marketing tools. This research arms the environmental community with an equally sophisticated understanding of the many different constituencies that we are trying to reach and how we can best reach them.”

The survey’s findings are already being put to work in the Campus Green project—a program designed to make environmental protection more relevant to the lives of the 17 million students at American colleges and universities. Campus Green focuses on the tangible benefits to students and schools from the making right choices on the environment. ecoAmerica is partnering with the Campus Climate Challenge, the Sierra Club, and a number of other organizations to design and execute this project.

The survey, conducted by SRI Consulting Business Intelligence, went beyond standard survey research by adding in a VALS psychographic marketing component. The VALS system, designed with the help of researchers at Stanford and the University of California-Berkeley, goes beyond simply understanding if someone supports something or not. It uncovers the values that form the basis for an individual’s support, allowing the public to be segmented into groups of like-minded individuals. Communicators can the craft an outreach strategy that is well-suited to tap into the values and motivations of each group. This kind of research and segmenting is commonly used by corporate marketing professionals to increase the effectiveness of their campaigns, but has not been extensively used by the advocacy community.

Following today’s presentation in Washington, D.C., additional briefings will soon be held in New York and San Francisco.

The Sierra Club is America’s oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental organization. Inspired by nature, the Club’s 750,000 members work together to protect our communities and the planet.

Earthjustice, a project co-sponsor, is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment.

ecoAmerica is a non-profit environmental research and marketing firm dedicated to making sustainable support for our natural heritage a personal and public policy priority among environmentally agnostic Americans.

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