Chevy ROCK (Reaching Out to Communities and Kids)
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Chevy ROCK (Reaching Out to Communities and Kids)

School violence and safety continues to be a top concern of young people. The tragedy at Columbine opened a lot of eyes to the fact that bullying, taunting and other “rites of passage” that occur every day in schools and communities can lead to violence if ignored. Thirty percent of students report that they have been on the giving or receiving end of bullying.

Paul Holmes

School violence and safety continues to be a top concern of young people. The tragedy at Columbine opened a lot of eyes to the fact that bullying, taunting and other “rites of passage” that occur every day in schools and communities can lead to violence if ignored. Thirty percent of students report that they have been on the giving or receiving end of bullying.
Now more than ever, young people need to be prepared to manage conflicts in their lives and require a range of life skills and resources to succeed. Although corporations support a variety of youth-related causes, few corporations have committed to working with charities to decrease the potential for school violence by empowering students to be a part of the solution.
Chevrolet has a genuine, personal connection to the issue of school safety through Chevrolet General Manager Kurt Ritter. Three years ago, after student John Tomlin, Jr. was killed at Columbine, fellow students memorialized his beloved Chevy truck in the school parking lot. Chevrolet employees, under the leadership of Ritter, were touched by the boy’s story and wanted to help the family.
Ritter, a caring father of five kids, contacted the Tomlins and traveled with Chevrolet employees to participate in a local house-build in honor of John Tomlin, Jr. Chevrolet restored John Tomlin, Jr.’s truck for the family, something he had hoped to do before his unexpected death.
During these events, Ritter challenged his employees to work under Cone’s leadership to identify an issue in which Chevrolet could make a long-term impact that would resonate with young people and support existing local Chevrolet dealership philanthropy. Now, in its third year, Chevy R.O.C.K. (Reaching Out to Communities & Kids) is the company’s initiative responding to the nation’s top priority of providing students with safe schools and communities to help them succeed.
Educating 600 Chevrolet dealers about how to participate in Chevy R.O.C.K. with a limited program budget: To find the most effective and turn-key method to communicate to an ever-increasing pool of dealerships, the team engaged the local marketing team to serve as local ambassadors to take the program “door-to-door” and encourage dealerships participation.
Cone held conference calls to educate the regional teams, who were encouraged to compete to secure the largest number of dealer grant applications (which is part of the Chevrolet culture) and to generate “buzz” among dealers in each market. Based on grant committee and dealer feedback, the team revised the application form and Dealer How-to Kit.
Creating a newsworthy element for the annual National S.A.V.E. Summit, which attracts more than 1,000 students, mostly from the southeastern United States: Even though S.A.V.E. is an emerging nonprofit with chapters in 35 states, the Summit was not “national” enough to garner national media attention.
The team also faced the challenge of positioning the Summit as more than an annual local event with North Carolina media. To create a harder news angle for the National Summit in April and to gauge students’ perceptions about school violence post-Columbine, Chevrolet and S.A.V.E. conducted the Chevrolet/S.A.V.E. School Violence Survey. The survey, released before the three-year Columbine anniversary, found that 81 percent of students are more likely to report a potential school threat since Columbine.
Cone worked with S.A.V.E. to determine the most effective activities that increase S.A.V.E. awareness, chapters and membership growth. Cone provided counsel to S.A.V.E. on a national evaluation, interviewing new chapters about the best way to ignite chapters and to determine how S.A.V.E. is making an impact.
As a result, the team increased the number of workshops held in local markets with educators, students and community members, as the workshops garner media attention and ignite new chapters. Cone conducted aggressive media outreach to increase media placements with mentions of S.A.V.E.’s toll-free number and Web site to drive traffic and media attention to the organization, igniting new chapters.
In addition to the core program elements, Cone and Chevrolet created an integrated marketing communications plan incorporating ways to tie Chevy R.O.C.K. into existing Chevrolet promotions, events and advertising efforts. The plan included auctioning the second-to-last Camaro off the assembly line with proceeds benefiting S.A.V.E (September 2002) and celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Corvette (June 2003), among others.
Cone developed a top-down, bottom-up strategy to ensure meaningful impacts at the local and national levels.
Chevrolet would support a nascent student organization at the national level: Chevrolet’s goal through Chevy R.O.C.K. is to generate awareness of S.A.V.E. nationally by increasing the numbers of chapters and student members in schools nationwide. S.A.V.E. is a nonprofit organization with nearly 1,000 student-run chapters in elementary, middle and high schools in 35 states. Students in S.A.V.E. chapters take the lead in keeping their schools safe by planning non-violence activities and teaching other students how to manage conflicts.
It would promote dealer philanthropy at the local level: The Chevy R.O.C.K. Matching Grant Program provides grants to qualifying Chevrolet dealer-supported nonprofit youth organizations to help dealers strengthen their current community commitments. Grant criteria were created with dealer input, and grants are given to a range of local youth development programs serving 6-18 year olds.
And it would generate awareness of the issue, S.A.V.E. and Chevrolet’s commitment: The team continues to raise awareness of S.A.V.E. and local dealer grant-giving through Chevy R.O.C.K. to garner editorial media placements in local and national media. The team also conducts aggressive media outreach for S.A.V.E., the Matching Grant Program and larger Chevy R.O.C.K. cause stories.
Chevrolet funds enabled S.A.V.E. to increase outreach to local schools and facilitate S.A.V.E. workshops in 12 cities from Oct. 2001- Jan. 2003 to educate teachers, students and other officials about S.A.V.E and how to start chapters in their schools. Cone conducted local media outreach to raise awareness of S.A.V.E. and these events. Chevrolet also sponsored the annual S.A.V.E. Summit in April 2002, attended by more than 1,000 students and educators from S.A.V.E. chapters nationwide. Parents and students who survived Columbine attended the Summit, addressed the crowd and participated in media interviews. 
Chevrolet and Chevy R.O.C.K. branding is visible in all S.A.V.E. materials (event programs, flyers, newsletters, manuals, etc.), collateral and on its Web site. 
Due to positive dealer feedback and participation, the grant program was expanded in Fall 2002 from 13 to 18 markets and involved 600+ dealers. Cone manages the Matching Grant Program, responding to grant inquiries; reviewing and tracking all grant applications; communicating to dealers and nonprofits; and running the official grant committee annual meeting to determine final grant approvals. To encourage dealers to participate, Cone created a simple How-to Kit and grant application form. Once grants are approved, dealers receive a Dealer Publicity Toolkit created by Cone to facilitate and encourage local grant publicity efforts.
Cone conducted aggressive local and select national media outreach for S.A.V.E. and the Matching Grant Program, as well as targeted media outreach about Chevrolet’s overall community commitment. The team refined its media strategy to increase the frequency of Chevrolet/Chevy R.O.C.K. messages in media placements and executed a Satellite Media Tour/Radio Media Tour with S.A.V.E. Executive Director/violence prevention expert Dr. Pamela Riley during the relevant back-to-school time. The team also conducted aggressive national and local outreach for the release of the S.A.V.E./Chevrolet School Violence Survey findings at the 2002 S.A.V.E. Summit.
In September 2002, the team raised $71,500 for S.A.V.E. through an eBay auction of the second-to-last Camaro ever produced. In addition, Chevrolet invited S.A.V.E. members to select NASCAR and Winston-Cup Race Car events in the Fall of 2002.
The program Increased awareness and the number of S.A.V.E. chapters nationwide. Since July 2000, 463 new S.A.V.E. chapters formed nationwide. S.A.V.E.’s ability to reach more schools due to funds from Chevy R.O.C.K. resulted in a 78 percent increase in the number of chapters and a 58 percent increase in student membership nationwide (94,000+ total) from July 2000-September 2002.
It also enhanced dealer image, engaged dealers in the Grant Program, and deepened Chevrolet relationships with dealers. Since 2000, local Chevrolet dealer participation in the Chevy R.O.C.K. Matching Grant Program resulted in more than $1 million in grants awarded to a range of local youth nonprofit organizations, including youth violence prevention, education, literacy, volunteerism and music/arts. Due to the success of the 2001-2002 grant program, more than 600 dealers are eligible to participate in the Fall 2002 Matching Grant Program.
Local Chevrolet dealers and grant recipients sent letters of gratitude to Kurt Ritter for the Chevy R.O.C.K. initiative (please see binder).
The program raised awareness and secured Chevy R.O.C.K. /S.A.V.E. media coverage. Cone secured 83+ million media impressions overall. The back-to-school SMT, RMT, VNR and local media outreach resulted in 25 million media impressions in September 2002. The School Violence Survey, released around the time of the National S.A.V.E. Summit, resulted in a front-page USA Today placement in April 2002.
It also elevated public profile of Chevrolet and its corporate citizenship: A feature article in Delta Airline’s Sky Magazine “Heroes in Our Time” section highlighted Chevrolet General Manager Kurt Ritter as a good corporate citizen through Chevy R.O.C.K.’s support of S.A.V.E.; this article reached more than 1.2 million key stakeholders and business travelers.
The program connected with youth and diverse markets: Chevrolet reaches more than 90,000 students nationwide through its partnership with S.A.V.E. In addition, Chevrolet dealerships and their Chevy R.O.C.K. grants benefit youth from all backgrounds in 18 U.S. cities.
And finally, it made a deep impact and expanded the program over time: Due to an overwhelmingly positive response from the dealers and strong results with the S.A.V.E. sponsorship, Chevrolet expanded Chevy R.O.C.K. nationally from 13 to 18 cities nationwide for Fall 2002 and will add additional markets for Spring 2003.
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