This summer wildfires raged across Colorado, destroying hundreds of thousands of acres of forestlands and wildlife habitat. Although the immediate impact of the fires was obvious, the long-term threat from mud and debris slides to vital watersheds servicing major metropolitan areas, and the devastation to mountain communities, also required urgent attention.
Shell Oil Company (Shell) seized upon this critical need and recognized that the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR) lacked sufficient resources for comprehensive slope stabilization. As a result, Shell created a campaign called “ReForest Colorado” ( committed to raising money – and awareness – for vital reforestation efforts to burn-impacted forests.
Throughout the summer, numerous companies, foundations and private individuals donated to wildfire relief efforts that the Red Cross stopped accepting contributions. With all these private entities contributing disaster relief funds, few received any public attention for their philanthropic efforts.
Shell approached the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and offered its assistance in vital forest rehabilitation efforts. To be effective in this campaign, Shell had to breakthrough the multitude of news stories surrounding the wildfires to highlight the need for slope stabilization and draw attention to ReForest Colorado.
Shell conducted an evaluation of the crisis and identified a critical niche that was being overlooked – forest rehabilitation. Shell also determined that the Colorado Department of Natural Resources had not yet partnered with any private disaster relief efforts. As a result, Shell rallied the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the office of Governor Bill Owens to endorse the formation of ReForest Colorado.
 The PR team set out to raise public awareness about the need for reforestation, as well as Shell’s commitment to Colorado’s communities and environment; rally the community to support the Department of Natural Resources; strengthen Shell’s relationship with key elected officials in Colorado, as well as regulators; and secure positive media placements in Colorado.
In addition to contributing $25,000 to the Red Cross for fire relief, the Shell Oil Company Foundation provided $25,000 in seed money to kick off the ReForest Colorado fundraising effort. Shell Oil Company then created the ReForest Colorado Web site – established to raise money for forest rehabilitation – and drove traffic to the site through print and broadcast advertising. In addition to being invited to a news conference with Governor Owens (along with two other private entities), DNR hosted its own news conference featuring Shell and the launch of the ReForest Colorado Web site and campaign.
In just over a week (June 21st to July 1st), Shell:
· Gained the approval and support of the Governor’s office and DNR to create the ReForest Colorado campaign.
· Forged a relationship and opened a bank account with The Bank of Cherry Creek, capable of accepting online contributions.
· Developed an image and message for ReForest Colorado.
· Built a Web site capable of processing online donations.
· Created and placed multi-day, full-page print ads in The Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News and other publications in the state.
· Scripted ReForest Colorado radio advertisements to air on Colorado Public Radio.
· Designed materials and organized a news conference with DNR’s Greg Walcher to unveil ReForest Colorado to the press and public.
In addition to 46 positive print and broadcast media placements about Shell’s ReForest Colorado campaign, The Denver Post and Grand Junction Daily Sentinel ran editorials in support of Shell’s efforts, and praised the company for its exemplary corporate citizenship.
Governor Bill Owens and DNR Executive Director Greg Walcher publicly thanked Shell in separate news conferences for helping the state heal from its worst-ever wildfire season.
Private entities encouraged members and employees to contribute to ReForest Colorado, including (but not limited to) Eddie Bauer and the Independent Petroleum Association of the Mountain States.
Once the State of Colorado was capable of assuming control of the Web site and the ReForest Colorado bank account, Shell turned over the project and all its assets to the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.
Through ReForest Colorado, Shell strengthened its relationship with Colorado state government, which presently regulates two Shell projects. Moreover, the campaign helped enhance Shell’s image with Colorado residents prior to rebranding 75 Texaco gas stations in the state by Shell.