How do you convince hundreds of Music City businesses, owners of major buildings and residents to turn off all nonessential lights for one hour on a busy March Saturday night? When the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) decided to bring Earth Hour to Nashville in 2009, it hired McNeely Pigott & Fox to make it happen.
Earth Hour began in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, when 2.2 million homes and businesses turned their lights off for one hour to symbolize growing concern over the issue of climate change. In 2008, Earth Hour went global. More than 50 million people turned out their lights. WWF decided to make Earth Hour 2009 even bigger. In December 2008, WWF announced that Nashville would serve as an official flagship city for Earth Hour 2009. Other Earth Hour 2009 U.S. flagship cities were Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City and San Francisco.
In partnership with WWF’s Southeast Rivers and Streams Program and Mayor Karl Dean’s office, MP&F recruited a group of Nashville’s prominent community leaders to lead the effort as members of the Earth Hour Nashville steering committee. MP&F worked with committee members to develop a vision for Nashville’s participation in Earth Hour and to identify and recruit key landmarks and buildings to participate in the initiative. The group decided to focus Nashville’s efforts on downtown Nashville, specifically the historic Lower Broadway area, and to incorporate Nashville’s musical talent into the city’s Earth Hour festivities.
To help get the word out and encourage widespread participation in Earth Hour, MP&F coordinated a kickoff event in February. The event was held at The Stage, one of Music City’s famous honky-tonks on Lower Broadway, and featured Mayor Dean, World Wildlife Fund officials, and several country music artists, including Jo Dee Messina, Big Kenny and Kathy Mattea. The event was attended by hundreds of Nashvillians and covered by The Tennessean, CMT, all four local television news stations, and Country Weekly.
The use of social media tools such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter played a key role in helping spread the word about Earth Hour Nashville. By the end of March, @EarthHrNshville had nearly 500 followers, and was ranked as the 37th most popular Twitter user in Nashville during that month, according to Twitterholic.com. MP&F used Twitter to generate excitement about Earth Hour Nashville, and to drive people to the Earth Hour Web site to sign up to participate.
In addition to coordinating the efforts of the steering committee, planning the kickoff event and executing social media outreach, MP&F worked hard during the months leading up to March 28 to ensure the success of the event. The MP&F team recruited hundreds of Nashville-area businesses and individuals to commit to participating in Earth Hour, planned and executed a meticulous night-of lights-out plan that ensured all major nonessential lights in downtown Nashville went out at 8:30 p.m., recruited some of Nashville’s top musical talent to support the city’s Earth Hour efforts, planned and staffed a VIP party to take place the night of Earth Hour, coordinated a public event held the night of Earth Hour that encouraged Nashvillians to come downtown to watch the lights go out, generated lead-up and night-of media coverage that resulted in more than 75 million media impressions, and arranged for photographers to capture the “before” and “after” shots of iconic buildings throughout the city that participated in Earth Hour.
On March 28, 2009, the Earth Hour Nashville lights-out event took place at Sommet Center Plaza in the heart of downtown Nashville. After the Nashville Predators’ game ended, thousands of hockey fans and Earth Hour participants spilled out onto the plaza to watch as award-winning, multiplatinum recording artist Jo Dee Messina performed during the moments leading up to Earth Hour. At 8:30 p.m., Mayor Dean, Messina, Big Kenny and WWF officials turned off the lights of the Sommet Center needle, beginning the cascade of neon and other nonessential lights going off. Messina performed her new single, “Shine,” from her upcoming Unmistakable album, moments after downtown’s historic Lower Broadway, major buildings and iconic structures went dark for Earth Hour.
Nashville’s community rallied around Earth Hour – especially the downtown building and business owners. By the time it was all said and done, at least 300 major buildings, businesses and landmarks had turned off their nonessential lights from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 28. Thanks to the enthusiasm of thousands of Nashvillians, Nashville’s skyline was plunged into darkness for one hour in a symbolic demonstration of support for global action against climate change.
WWF’s Earth Hour 2009 was hailed as the biggest-ever vote for the future of planet Earth. Hundreds of millions of people took part by switching off nonessential lighting for an hour. Cities from Las Vegas to Sydney, from Cape Town to Beijing participated. And many of the world’s most iconic landmarks went dark, including the Golden Gate Bridge, the Empire State Building, Sears Tower, the Eiffel Tower, Niagara Falls, and the Edinburgh Castle in Scotland. Nashville was right there in the middle of it all to make sure the world knows that Music City cares about the future of our planet.