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Girl Scouts Adds a ‘Byte’ to Its Iconic Cookie Program

Gold Stevie Award Winner 2012, Click to Enter The 2014 American Business Awards

Company: Girl Scouts of the USA, New York, NY
Company Description: GSUSA is a nonprofit committed to developing girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place.
Nomination Category: Corporate Communications, Investor Relations, & Public Relations Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Communications or PR Campaign/Program of the Year - New Product Launch

Nomination Title: Girl Scouts Adds a ‘Byte’ to Its Iconic Cookie Program

Tell the story about this nominated campaign since January 1, 2014 (up to 650 words). Focus on specific accomplishments, and relate these accomplishments to past performance or industry norms.

In 2014, Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) launched “Digital Cookie,” a groundbreaking addition to its iconic cookie program, adding a digital layer that teaches girls vital new ecommerce skills for the modern economy. It lets girls market cookies, process payments, and place shipment orders digitally through a national digital platform for first time in the history of the Cookie Program.

Our objective was to communicate Digital Cookie to internal and external parties across Girl Scouts. With a tight budget, GSUSA led a media strategy designed to place girls—their experiences, interests, and education—at the center of the campaign, allowing them to tell the Digital Cookie story through their own experiences, positioning the initiative as a fun and revolutionary way for girls to learn modern entrepreneurism. As a girl-led and girl-centered organization, we believe our very best spokespeople are girls—the incredible young women our Movement has developed into leaders for over a century. In order to tell a comprehensive national story, Digital Cookie was embargoed until December 1, the first time a Movement-wide press embargo was announced, allowing GSUSA to control the story. Preparation included drafting a major national press release, creating talking points for GSUSA leadership, assembling local press kits for councils, and engaging in extensive media training of GSUSA Digital Cookie teams and the girls who would deliver the Digital Cookie message.

We started by developing a strategy for dealing with the many challenges of communication Digital Cookie, including telling one consistent story across 112 local markets, addressing council participation in the first year of the initiative, ensuring media coverage reflected Digital Cookie as an expansion of the cookie program and not a replacement, informing the public that the launch of Digital Cookie was an initial phase of a program that will progress over time, and communicating a new program that was still in development at the time of planning. By working closely with a select handful of top-tier, wide-reaching media we believed we could better control the story, and drive future coverage based on pickup from these well-informed stories. The select press were given an exclusive advanced screening of the initiative in early November, hosted by girls from local councils, tying back to our girl-led and girl-driven mission. The launch strategy culminated with Girl Scouts showcasing Digital Cookie to the tech world at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) – again, putting the girls in the driver’s seat, leading engagement with both consumers and press at the event.

We lifted the embargo at 10 p.m. on November 31, securing substantial pickup across platforms. GSUSA measured earned media coverage from The New York Times, USA Today, ABC News, Good Morning America, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Fast Company, Mashable, and Entrepreneur just to start. To date, Digital Cookie has received nearly 4 billion unique local and national media impressions. Our strategy of allowing girls to tell the Digital Cookie story was hugely successful; nearly 70% of our coverage included messaging around the girl-centric aspect and what girls learn through Digital Cookie.

The coverage we secured, turned Digital Cookie into a pop-culture phenomenon, trending #1 on Facebook and receiving coverage on Saturday Night Live and NYC Taxi Jeopardy. In addition to securing mentions on all morning news shows and virtually all major national publications, Girl Scouts was deemed “Brand of the Day” by ADWEEK, and Fast Company ranked us among the World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies of 2015 in Not-for-Profit. Digital Cookie drove a record 5 million people to our website, and 11 million Girl Scout Cookie–related page views. GSUSA secured additional accolades at CES, where TIME and The New York Times ranked Girl Scouts as the most unlikely yet most important brand on site. The Wall Street Journal deemed Digital Cookie the one item from CES 2015 “that will change our lives or habits forever.”

In bullet-list form, briefly summarize up to ten (10) of the chief features and results of this nominated PR program since the beginning of 2014 (up to 150 words).

• GSUSA’s objective was to communicate Digital Cookie in a comprehensive way to interested internal and external parties across Girl Scouts
• Our goal was 500 million unique media impressions, with an additional 100 million impressions from 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), but coverage surpassed our expectations – nearly 4 billion unique local and national media impressions – eclipsing our goal by more than 800%.
• To ensure a big reveal, news of Digital Cookie was embargoed in Girl Scouts’ first-ever movement-wide embargo.
• A staged demonstration hosted by girls was held, allowing GSUSA to introduce Digital Cookie to press, explain the rationale, goal, and long-term vision.
• Nearly 70% of coverage included messaging around the educational aspect of Digital Cookie.
• The volume of coverage we secured caused Digital Cookie to become a pop-cultural phenomenon, trending at #1 on Facebook and receiving mention on morning talk news show, Saturday Night Live, and NYC