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Worrell Water Technologies: From Engineered Solution to Industry Thought Leader

Worrell Water Technologies, a fast-growing, privately held company based in Charlottesville, Va., is dedicated to rethinking and rebuilding the way the world uses water. Over the past several years the company has invested millions in research and development, producing breakthrough innovations in safe, sustainable technologies for water treatment and water security worldwide.

While Worrell Water had developed and successfully installed its flagship product, the Living Machine® system, its solutions were still perceived as emerging and not proven. This perception limited Worrell Water’s voice in the market, kept employees in “startup” mode and created barriers to developing sales leads. Additionally, the company needed to communicate more effectively in order to protect its brand, patents and trademarks from competitors’ claims.

The Strategy

In 2010, Worrell Water selected Four Leaf Public Relations for a comprehensive marketing communications program that was built from the bottom up. While the primary focus was to support sales, the program was also designed to position Worrell Water and its executives as thought leaders on issues related to water use in the 21st century.

The program was broken into two phases:

  1. Create the necessary messages and tools to introduce Worrell Water and the Living Machine system to key market segments including engineers, architects, green building and the water processing industry.
  2. Leverage the initial market position to evolve Worrell Water into a recognized industry thought leader engaging business and government leaders, consumers and major media.

Tactical Execution

Though media outreach began immediately, during the early stages of the program the major focus was on developing a message and positioning platform. The platform helped articulate who Worrell Water was and how the Living Machine system was at the heart of the company’s mission. The messaging developed through Four Leaf’s proprietary Storytelling, Positioning and Messaging process positioned the company, and its products, as cutting-edge yet proven technology and provided insights into the market, industry and water issues. In addition to being a media outreach tool, the platform helped ensure all aspects of the company – especially sales – were driving the brand in a unified direction.

With the messages platform in place, Four Leaf moved on multiple fronts:

  • Trade media placements that would reach key decision-makers and also serve as a launch pad to reach broader, consumer and policy maker audiences
  • Social media outreach that included training for Worrell Water employees to manage the program in-house
  • Identification and pursuit of speaking opportunities in front of key green building and policy maker audiences
  • Development of white papers, bylined articles and case studies to support the company’s market position

In a little less than two years, Worrell Water had achieved the Phase I program objectives. Sales was receiving inbound inquiries from media placements, its executives were enjoying the spotlight at speaking events and the company was engaging in dialogue with people and organizations looking to solve the challenges of water treatment, quality, scarcity and usage worldwide.  It was time to take the communications program to the next level.

To help Worrell Water realize its industry leadership potential, Four Leaf updated the messages and positioning platform to shift the dialogue in favor of the business case for a Living Machine system. The updated platform positioned the company as the leader and simplified much of the technical message points in favor of making an economic case. The target audience shifted as well from trade media to business media and from engineers to senior executives, consumers and other buying decision makers.

Worrell Water now found itself a credible authority on water issues, and as a result, launched the Living Technology Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing ecological water strategies and technologies that meet human and environmental needs. The Institute sponsors an annual World Water Day Forum that coincides with the United Nations World Water Day and provides a unique stage to attract media interest. From strategy to planning, to media outreach, Four Leaf took on strategic as well as tactical roles in ensuring the Forum’s initial success.

New installations of the Living Machine were increasing and Four Leaf promoted these heavily to regional and business media, providing journalists and their audiences an opportunity to see Worrell Water’s technology in action. In June of 2012, one of the most significant installations in the company’s history attracted the attention of architects, environmentalists, government leaders and consumers. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission unveiled its newly completed headquarters building. It is considered by many the greenest building in North America and includes a Living Machine system. The event attracted significant media attention elevating Worrell Water and its products to a new level of global awareness.

The Results

In addition to driving sales, the marketing communications program has:

  • Delivered hundreds of media placements annually, including Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Wired, Architecture Week, ZDNet, San Diego Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle and more.
  • 75 percent of speaking proposals were accepted including GreenBuild and the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association.
  • A steady stream of sales leads from all over the world.
  • Strong, unified messaging for the technology and the business case.

Next Steps

Having thrived through the early adopter stage, established themselves as thought leaders and installed a truly world-class project, Worrell Water and the Living Machine are well positioned for the future.  As the company works to change how water systems around the world work, the media effort will continue to create greater awareness by showcasing successes that prove time and again the business case for a new water system for the future.

Equipment Leasing and Finance Association

Four Leaf took a three-pronged approach to furthering the group’s communications objectives, improving awareness among key influencers, and affecting the behavior of key constituencies. The plan included media relations, customer relations, and original content development, including research.

Objectives

  • Establish ELFA as the source for information on leasing and finance.
  • Broaden awareness of ELFA and the equipment leasing and finance industry.
  • Infiltrate top-tier publications to increase media impressions and awareness.
  • Involve ELFA members in media outreach activities to showcase examples of leasing and financing at work.
  • Increase quantity and quality of media coverage, including ELFA messaging in media placements and mentions of
    www.ChooseLeasing.org, ELFA’s information portal for financial decision makers.
  • Beef up ELFA’s e-news and www.elaonline.com news section with original content and also establishing a new member benefit — access to original content.
  • Create an ongoing dialogue between customer organizations and ELFA, strengthening leasing’s presence among customer organization’s members.
  • Leverage customer organizations’ credibility with their members to further validate leasing and finance and ELFA member companies.

Strategies

  • Plan, manage and conduct high-level, national media relations.
  • Research and book national speaking engagements for ELFA’s President and members of ELFA.
  • Engage members by interviewing them for case studies and commentary on industry issues, developing original articles for placement in leasing trade press as well as other media outlets.
  • Conduct and use ELFA primary research to earn attention from media outlets, sister organizations and other industry stakeholders. Research projects included a survey of the Small Business Administration’s State Contest Winners’ leasing activity; a survey in conjunction with Entrepreneur magazine; a survey of the Fortune 100 Small Businesses; and a survey of community banks on their leasing activity.

Implementations

  • Developed media relationships with finance and business reporters for regular ELFA commentary to be included in appropriate stories, including AP, Fortune magazine and others.
  • Researched messages currently being picked up by media and lessors’ use of language.
  • Issued dozens of press releases and conducted pitching upon every new research project created, commentary on issues related to leasing, including legislative and regulatory issues, ELFA programs and other.
  • Issued results of an economic contribution study showing the positive impact of the industry on the U.S. economy to the press through various media activities such as press teleseminars, issuing releases and an Audio News Release, and placing bylined articles telling leasing’s positive story.
  • Offered several bylined article topics several times a year to trades and business publications.
  • Offered joint survey projects that would lead to exclusive editorial coverage.
  • Pitched ELFA President to customer organizations for speaking engagements.
  • Interviewed members weekly for an original article on a developing industry issue.
  • Invited members to submit article ideas to ensure coverage is addressing key issues.
  • Booked a special supplement on leasing in Fortune magazine, March 2004.

Results

  • Quality and quantity of trade media coverage increased with articles clearly more focused on leasing’s benefits and with references made to www.ChooseLeasing.org. Media results were measured in several ways including impressions, ad equivalences, number of articles and interviews.
  • Media impressions increased from 357 million impressions to more than 2 billion in two years, with the number of articles tripling in that same time frame.
  • Bylined article placements increased from a handful in 2002 to more than 60 in 2004.
  • Almost all the positive-to-neutral articles contained some ELFA-generated statistic from its various studies and reports. The “10 Questions to Ask Before Signing a Lease” also appeared as a sidebar in dozens of articles.
  • The leasing trades reprinted 95 percent of every ELFA press release.
  • ELFA messaging in media placements increased year over year by 30 percent.
  • Whenever ELFA released a new study, it earned an average of 10 responses from reporters requesting the full study or survey.
  • More than 25 original articles on industry topics
    were produced for e-news, annually, which quoted ELFA members. Approximately
    95 percent of these articles were repurposed and published in other leasing
    trades.
  • A speaking engagement was booked with the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) annual conference and AFP also printed a bylined article by the ELFA President.
  • American Bankers Association published a white paper from ELFA and a link to www.ChooseLeasing.org
  • The Small Business Administration granted ELFA partnership status and listed www.ChooseLeasing.org on the SBA SCORE Web site.
  • More than 10 www.ChooseLeasing.org links to various SBA Business Information Centers were earned.
  • Entrepreneur magazine conducted a joint survey with ELFA, culminating in that publication’s coverage of leasing.

Business Software Alliance

For the Business Software Alliance (www.bsa.org), Four Leaf developed a media and community relations program to convey the seriousness of illegally downloading and sharing software to young people and promoting BSA as an industry leader in educating youth about software theft.

Objectives

  • Convey the seriousness of illegal downloading and sharing software.
  • Instill the message that teachers and IT staff can and must take a role in fighting software theft.
  • Create awareness among target audiences that the BSA is a clearinghouse of resources to fight software theft.
  • Positively impact students’ ethical stance on software stealing.

Strategies

  • Conduct media relations, leveraging the credibility and reach of parent and teacher media (including Web sites).
  • Create partnerships with key early educational organizations, nonprofits and other influencing groups to earn third party credibility and extend reach to BSA’s target audiences.
  • Create an “expert status” for BSA representatives on the issue of children and copyright issues.
  • Leverage Internet vehicles to reach youth and parents and teachers.
  • Develop and offer tools for teachers to move the anti-piracy cause forward.

Implementations

  • Pitched stories to the press related to piracy, software development and children’s ethical training, as well as offered bylined article topics to trades, education, parenting and business publications.
  • Designed and drafted Certificate of Recognition for kids (naming them a Cyber Ethics Champion) and a Code of Ethics for posting on the site and available for downloading by parents, teachers and children.
  • Drafted and maintained a statistical fact sheet, titled “Children and the Cyber-Frontier” for posting on www.PlayItCyberSafe.com pitching to media outlets and using in speaking engagement bookings.
  • Released “Five Tips for Teaching Children Respect for Copyright” to the media.
  • Developed a mascot for the Play It Safe In Cyberspace campaign, a ferret, and held a contest to name the ferret among 4th and 5th graders.
  • Identified and worked with Dr. Diane DeMott Painter, a technology resource teacher with Fairfax County Public Schools, to act as a spokesperson for BSA’s curriculum. In early 2004, BSA gave its first-ever Cyber Education Champion Award to Dr. Painter.
  • Conducted original research with Harris Interactive and IPSOS omnibus surveys, asking kids and households (adults) about cyber ethics issue to bring heightened awareness to the issue and provide fodder for media pitches.

Results

  • Traffic to www.PlayItCyberSafe.com increased 1,625% from August 2003 to August 2004. The ferret-naming poll press release alone had more than 1,800 downloads in August 2004, the month the poll was announced.
  • Media impressions grew from just over 35 million in 2003 to more than 466 million as of September 2004. Hits included the Time For Kids, Washington Post, Technology & Learning, eSchool News and School Library Journal.
  • Several dozen bylined articles were placed in publications, including Our Children magazine, published by the National Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), and Middle Ground.
  • Web links were earned including www.PlayItCyberSafe.com links to Safe Wired Schools, TechLearning.com, T.H.E. Journal, the National Education Association and Virginia’s Community of Learning. A total of 775,000 monthly visits to these sites significantly boosted the curriculum’s visibility.
  • Bob Kruger earned several speaking engagements, including giving presentations before two elementary schools, Deer Park Elementary School and Waples Mills Elementary in Fairfax, Virginia, and presentations to the Virginia Society for Technology in Education annual conference and about 40 of the San Jose Unified School District’s technology resource teachers in California.

Equestrian Services LLC

Objectives

  • Raise visibility of Equestrian Services programs and services.
  • Establish Equestrian Services as the leading turn-key provider of equestrian amenity development for builders and developers and resorts owners, nationally.
  • Instill the message that the equestrian market is growing and underserved among builders and developers.
  • Create awareness among horse community that the Equestrian Services is a clearinghouse for knowledge on equestrian amenities, from the “right way” to develop an equestrian center to environmental impacts.

Strategies

  • Conduct media relations that brands Equestrian Services, including
    • Establishing the “expert status” of key Equestrian Services staff among media outlets, and in turn their audiences – members of the equestrian community, builders and developers and resort owners.
    • Leveraging Equestrian “events” such as horse events, new development launches, and staff additions to bring attention to Equestrian Services’ messages.
    • Leveraging the equestrian amenity’s “sustainable” qualities to show builders and developers a unique and different approach to development amenities.
  • Conduct media relations around special events, such as groundbreakings of new equestrian communities.

Implementations

  • Pitched stories to key general, business and trade press related to equestrian amenities from the unique aspects of equestrian centers to its marketing advantages.
  • Wrote and offered bylined article topics to trades, builder/developer and resort trades and select business publications.
  • Invited and managed press at groundbreaking events, such as The Oaks in Lake City, Florida.
  • Drafted and maintained a fact sheet on equestrian community development.
  • Developed and offered tip sheets, such as 5 Unique Aspects of Equestrian Communities, to media outlets.

Results

  • Media impressions grew from a few to just over 2 million, and ad equivalencies paid for the media relations program 5 times over, in just 6 months.
  • All key local media covered The Oaks groundbreaking, from the ABC and PBS television channels, to the Gainesville Sun and the Lake City Reporter.
  • Strategic media hits included The Washington Post, Fox Channel 5, Equus magazine, Horse Illustrated, Stratos magazine, and other tier one outlets.
  • Several bylined articles were placed in horse trade publications, including Bit & Bridle and Horse Country.
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