By Gary Weiland, Strategic Communications Consultant
Like many companies, every year Domtar Corporation produced an annual sustainability report and distributed it to its key audiences. They upped the ante in 2015, when they produced an award-winning report that incorporated unique and engaging content that garnered interest far beyond launch day with video, infographics, blog posts, press releases and other digital assets.
“While we made efforts to make the annual sustainability report more readable and accessible, we’ve made it more so by producing multiple digital and companion pieces that play off our foundational printed report,” says Brian Kozloski, Senior Manager of Sustainability Performance Optimization at Domtar, the largest producer of paper in the United States and widely recognized as the leader in sustainable forestry practices. “This multimedia approach allowed us to focus our full printed report on content that was most relevant to our business and of interest to our stakeholders.”
3BL Media, a seven-year-old company that provides a corporate communications platform to increase visibility of its clients’ corporate social responsibility and sustainability content, worked with Domtar to develop a digital communications strategy. The plan supported and enhanced the work already completed on Domtar’s annual report, which was recognized as the best CSR/sustainability report of 2015 by one trade industry association.
“The report was unlike anything we had produced before,” says Kozloski. “One of the reasons was the willingness of management to take this risk. It was also rooted in strong, proactive engagement with our stakeholders.”
Domtar produced a large printed copy of the annual report, a smaller brochure, a wallet card version and posters geared to internal and external stakeholders.
“With multiple versions of the annual report, we felt confident we reached more people than ever before, but we didn’t want to stop there,” says Kozloski.
The value of the report was so radically different that Domtar wanted to expand its reach as well, and that’s where 3BL Media came in.
“3BL is a great resource for distributing content that’s focused on specific topics such as sustainability to targeted audiences,” Kozloski said.
Domtar distributed a traditional press release at the time the annual report was completed. However, they wanted to leverage its reach to new audiences and reconnect with those who may have seen the wire report and forgotten about it the next day.
Working with 3BL Media, a unique multi-platform digital campaign to extend the report’s message was developed using natural break points – eight major reporting sections and more than 40 different stories – in the annual report. One or two stories every week were placed into 3BL Media’s content platform over a five-month period. For continuity, much of the theme of the annual report, brochure and wallet card was replicated on the 3BL Media platform.
“3BL helped us create a ‘highlight reel’ of the entire report,” said Dan Persica, Domtar’s Sustainability Communications Manager. The campaign created a steady drumbeat that ensured a constant flow of information was going out to the market about Domtar’s sustainability efforts, including small pieces of content distributed via social media.
“It was a bite-size way to view our annual report,” said Persica. “Many readers may not have known it, but they were actually reading our sustainability report in slow motion over five months.”
Analytics feedback helped Domtar evaluate the success of its campaign on the 3BL Media platform. For example, the annual report articles were viewed more than 500,000 times with approximately 35,000 click-throughs from August through December 2015. Feedback also determined which of the stories were performing the best.
“This became another mechanism to perfect future reports,” said Persica. “And the stories will continue to live out there and be viewed even more over time.”
The campaign helped Domtar gain attention with new audiences by using previously untapped resources. According to David Armon, Chief Marketing Officer of 3BL Media, Domtar’s approach is a great example of how corporations can target and further extend awareness of their sustainability and corporate citizenship efforts.
“Optimizing content and using the same content and catering it for different audiences increases the odds that your customers will consume and understand it,” said Armon. “It helps ensure the stories that you tell resonate and it greatly extends your audience.”
While press releases still have their place, Armon says they are just a small piece of the elements that can resonate.
“The always-on news cycle of 2016 means messages flow like a fast-moving river, here for a few moments and then gone. But recognizing this and organizing communications so they are ongoing—with photos, blogs, videos, articles and infographics—you can maintain steady interest and engagement with your targeted audiences.
Gary Weiland is a strategic communications consultant experienced in marketing, corporate communications and public affairs. A former reporter, Weiland worked in PR at The Cleveland Clinic for more than 20 years.