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Creating a discussion to identify solutions

October 04, 2005

The last few months, oil companies have been getting beat up in the press because of high gas prices. To combat those issues Chevron has launched an online ad on cnn.com inviting people to identify energy solutions.

Check out the site here: http://www.willyoujoinus.com/discussion

This is a great tactic for Chevron to address the issue of this country's energy problem. It turns the issue back to individuals to identify solutions to the problem and provides an outlet for people to discuss energy issues. These issues are definitely on the minds of many. The general public is concerned about the problem but they feel helpless in their ability to deal with these issues. The forum creates an arena where individuals can educate themselves on the issues and then participate.

This concept is a good example of how to engage consumers. It is successful because:

1. Educates people on the issue
The site starts off each discussion by having an expert express his or her opinion. This accurately frame the discussion and helps define the parameters of the discussion.

2.Engages and listens
Marketing and public relations are changing. It is more and more difficult for corporations, institutions and the government to control their messages. Messages will need to lead people to their own conclusions, not make conclusions for consumers. That is exactly what this site does.  The public, however, may not always move in the direction you want them to.  It is important to listen and adapt.

3. Interactive
The site makes the reader feel immersed in a personal conversation. It may not be a real time conversation, but it is a real dialogue. This encourages people to visit the site on a regular basis.  Importantly, the site has built in controls that keep the discussion topical and civil.

Overall the site does a creative job of engaging consumers and increasing the transparency of the corporation. It is a tactic that should be used by other corporations, non-profits and government institutions.

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