Energising the blogosphere

5 Apr 2009

Bord Gáis recently pulled off one of the most effective go-to-market launches ever seen in Ireland, and engaging with the blogging community was an important element of its strategy, despite the advice of its PR and advertising people.

In the words of one insider at Bord Gáis: “It was a very bold move for a semi-state and strongly against the advice of our PR agency.” That bold move – to engage with the blogosphere – was just one element of a plan that was 18 months in the making and encompassed a combination of online, outdoor, TV and radio efforts.

At the heart of the plan was a website – www.thebigswitch.ie – with an outdoor teaser campaign launched a fortnight before the main launch. Users of the rapidly emerging social media site Twitter were encouraged to send in pictures of the tease billboards to win a prize.

Within a week of the launch, over 35,000 people made the big switch from ESB to Bord Gáis, lured by the 10pc cheaper promise made by the Cork-headquartered semi-state.

But what was unique about the campaign was the decision by Bord Gáis’s marketing director, Nicky Doran, to include bloggers in the press planning, against the advice of both the PR and advertising agencies employed by the company.

Doran explained that the marketing team had kept a watchful eye on all online developments for the past few years and felt that, despite the conservative nature of the semi-state body, a change of tack was needed.

“The marketing team is made up of young people, and we considered a number of online approaches to engage with customers. We were against the setting up of Bebo and Facebook profiles just to have an online presence. We tip-toed around it until we felt in our hearts we had developed the right strategy.”

Doran said that with over 500,000 existing customers, Bord Gáis had to take a different approach to win a new generation, especially if it was offering a radically different product.

“Our PR agency was very much against us dipping our toe into the blogosphere. But, because we were keeping an eye on all things online, we felt this was a space that had to be included in our plans.”

Bord Gáis made contact with prominent Cork-based blogger Damien Mulley and asked him about the best way to facilitate bloggers. “We didn’t want to go with the standard marketing plan. If we weren’t going into electricity, it would have been a very unsexy story. But with something this new, it was the ideal time to start engaging.

“The strategy we developed was to provide a full briefing of our marketing plan to invited bloggers a day before we gave it to the mainstream media, and ask them what they thought of it and how they thought we should be engaging with customers going forward. The plan received a very frosty reception internally, especially from the PR and advertising agencies.”

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