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The Cow-Powered Datacenter!

Bite works with HP to drive awareness in support of the company’s “Changing the Energy Equation” campaign.

Holmes Report

HP boasts an impressive legacy of innovation. The company’s central research arm, HP Labs, is home to some of the brightest minds in the world who are discovering ways to use technology to address the most significant challenges facing society. With the world’s demand for energy soaring, innovation to create more sustainable ecosystems to support economic growth is a key focus.

Bite works with HP to drive awareness in support of the company’s “Changing the Energy Equation” campaign – a thought leadership platform that raises awareness around HP’s efforts to create more sustainable ecosystems for businesses and communities. While HP is well regarded in technical and sustainability circles, the challenge was to find a way to carry this message to a more general business audience to increase recognition of HP as an innovator among C-level executives and general investors.

Through close work with researchers in HP Labs, the team learned in March 2010 of unique research underway showing how cow manure could power the Internet in an environmentally and economically sustainable system. Cow manure powering the Internet?! This could be the stepping stone we needed to elevate this story to a mainstream business audience.

The primary goal of this campaign was to move the needle on C-level executives’ and investors’ perception of HP as an innovator by increasing the volume of positive coverage around HP’s energy-related innovation in key outlets that reach these groups. Since a significant portion of HP’s business is conducted outside of the U.S., the audience was global.

A secondary objective was to drive awareness within the sustainable IT community, which would help lay the groundwork for future partnerships that could turn this research into reality.

Planning & Strategy
HP Labs researchers planned to present the research on cow-powered datacenters at a technical conference on May 20, 2010. The PR team partnered with them to develop a multifaceted global communications strategy to publicly unveil the research in a way that would tie back to the corporate platform and reach a C-level and general investor audience.

To shape the story so it was relevant for these audiences, we developed a concise storyline that translated the highly technical research into concepts to which non-PhDs could relate: dairy farms and computers. The team gathered data to help bring the story to life, answering questions like “How much manure does the average dairy cow produce a year, when you compare it to the weight of an adult elephant? What things can you power with the manure from one cow – an online shopping transaction? Watching TV for an hour?”

In addition, we created visuals to help tell the story: a chart showing how the energy flows from cow to computer back to the farm (at right), and a more lighthearted illustration of a server plugged into a cow patty for use in general interest media (following).

We selected a group of ten top-tier publications across the U.S., Europe and Asia to pre-brief on the news. We chose the most influential publications in each media market, to ensure organic proliferation of the news through secondary news outlets and social media.

We developed a campaign during April and May, leading up to a public announcement on May 19, 2010. Specific tactics included:
• Development of the two creative images included in this summary
• Filming a video interview with Chandrakant Patel, lead researcher and director of HP’s Sustainable IT Ecosystem Lab, discussing the research and explaining how it illustrates the broader concept of sustainable ecosystems
• The creation of a social media release incorporating links to the creative materials: the video interview, a story from HP’s website, and the full research paper, to tell the story in a content-rich manner
• Conducting briefings with select top-tier global media and HP researchers in advance of the public announcement and in the week following (e.g. The New York Times, BBC, NPR, Reuters, The Sunday Times, The South China Morning Post and India’s Financial Chronicle)
• A concerted push to media in India, where dramatic economic growth, lack of power and availability of resources create the “perfect storm” for implementing such a system
• Promotion on HP’s online and social media properties including @HPLabs and @HPNews on Twitter and the HP Labs website


This campaign, which reached approximately 3.5 million readers, helped HP achieve its highest volume of positive innovation coverage in six months.

The discussion, generated solely by PR, drove business development inquiries from potential partners including prominent VC firms, leading research universities and equipment producers interested in working with HP to turn this research into reality.

The campaign generated 150+ positive articles and blog posts spanning C-level, investor-facing and technology outlets globally. Many articles included HP’s images and video content. The program also achieved significant social media traction including 1000+ Tweets and 1,600 YouTube views in the first week (views have since exceeded 3000).

As a highlight, “One Moos and One Hums, but They Could Help Power Google,” ran on the front page of the New York Times Business Day on May 20, featuring the HP info-graphic at left. The story was the outlet’s most viewed and emailed tech story of the day and was syndicated to the UK, India and Singapore.

R&D and innovation messages permeated 59% of coverage, and 29% of stories highlighted the impact on environmental sustainability. Moreover, stories positioned HP’s approach as an innovative alternative to the server farm land grab taking place between other tech players such as Google and Microsoft.

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