Commuters and television viewers woke up to the sight of price tags the size of small refrigerators hanging from the trees at the Minnesota State Capital on Arbor Day. CEL Public Relations and its client the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Division of Forestry created the tactic to highlight a new study that showed the financial value of trees to property owners, cities, and businesses for the first time in the history of trees. The budget was $4950.
Consumers were not treating trees as an asset, and therefore by lack of care, trees were becoming a liability. US Forest Service, MN DNR – Division of Forestry, MN Nursery & Landscape Association, and MN Shade Tree Advisory Committee had struggled for years to get consumers to hear and understand that trees have value and they pay us back financially.
State and U.S. Foresters were swinging from the trees with joy as they unveiled results from a national study demonstrating the impact trees could have on property values in years to come. However, the ground dwellers were less excited about the new information. Though the media traditionally covers Arbor Day, the various news organizations responded well to having a hook to tie into coverage. It was an intentionally crafted winwin for all.
A study out of University of California-Davis titled “Trees Pay Us Back” and showed that as a tree matures, it also grows in value. Most illuminating, it found that trees can return from $3 – $7 in annual benefits for every dollar invested in their care. A 50 to 75-year-old tree can be worth between $1,500 and $2,250 to a property owner.
CEL knew right away that these statistics were the media hook. Television, radio and print media perform a service by covering stories for consumers. A story about how homeowners can consider trees as an investment on their property and in their communities was attractive to most media outlets. With the media hook now firmly planted, the final step was making it visual. CEL considered several traditional methods, but the light went on when trees were viewed in a purely commercial way. The best perspective of the study was through the lens of the quintessential consumer, a bargain shopper. All bargain shoppers focus on the price tag. The vision of the shopper wandering through a forest of trees inspecting price tags was the next logical step.
The Arbor Day celebration on the state capital steps included a speech by Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Carol Molnau, tree climbing demonstrations, a tree planting and rides in a cherry picker. In conjunction with Arbor Day, CEL wrote and designed the MNtrees.org website. CEL and MN DNR-Div. of Forestry made the decision to launch and unveil this new vehicle for “tapping into tree expertise” in conjunction with Arbor Day. It was a media hook that brought additional coverage to Arbor Day and Arbor Month while serving as a resource for the media to direct readers/listeners/viewers to for information on trees.
The final count of media hits included seven print impressions, three radio impressions and total of twentythree television teases and segments in the Twin Cities area resulting in thousands of consumers becoming informed. MNtrees.org got immediate hits. The visual price tag tactic was so successful that it is being implemented by foresters across the country and has drawn national recognition within the forest industry. CEL won the Outstanding Media Award from the Minnesota Shade Tree Advisory Committee (MNSTAC).