Sunshine 811 Responds to Hurricane Irma with Successful Public Awareness Campaign

Hurricane Irma’s unprecedented power outages got a lot of press. People knew what to do when they encountered an above-ground electric line, but no one warned them of underground lines.

So Sunshine 811 developed an earned media campaign that came together in less than a week after Hurricane Irma to take advantage of Irma’s major news draw. It ran Sept. 13 – Nov. 30 and educated Floridians on the need to call 811 before any digging – even storm recovery.

The move was necessary after people started piling up their damaged fencing by the road. Recent damage statistics show fence installs are one of the larger causes of underground facility damages in Florida and the hardware stores were busy selling fencing.

We approached media outlets to run free public service announcements and submitted letters to the editor.

We also partnered with our member Spectrum Reach, a digital media network, to run storm-themed pre-roll video and digital display ads to customers near 113 Home Depot stores in Gainesville, Naples, Ft Myers, Sarasota, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Tampa, St. Petersburg, West Palm Beach and Orlando.

Finally, we developed a campaign landing page and toolkit of all outreach materials related to Irma clean-up and asked our members to use them to educate their customers. Running Sept. 13 – Nov. 30, this integrated campaign that came together in less than a week after Hurricane Irma have been outstanding:

  • Nearly 90 radio and television stations (English and Spanish) in all Florida counties aired public service announcements provided by Sunshine 811 at no cost.
  • Banners and pre-roll videos generated 856,437 highly qualified impressions (views).
  • Sunshine 811’s “After the Storm” webpage, which included the toolkit of communications materials for member facility operators, was visited by 1,346 people.
  • Our website saw an increase in overall web traffic of 18 percent and a 22 percent increase in new visitors over 2016. 
  • Total first time callers (15,157) for the campaign’s duration saw a 14 percent increase over the same month in 2016; and October was a record-breaking month with 6,014, up 35 percent.
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