The Friends of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center recently introduced its Forecast Pledge, whose goal is to ensure that every backcountry user in Colorado checks the forecast before venturing out. Friends of the CAIC Executive Director Aaron Carlson and Events & Marketing Manager Brian Rodine elaborate on the project’s background and how it’s going below.
Increases in participation in outdoor activities, including backcountry winter recreation, due to the pandemic are no longer debated. As the winter approaches, we are now being asked “what is your organization doing about it?”
Getting the forecast is the most important thing someone can do before they head into the backcountry. We set out to increase this behavior by launching ForecastPledge.org. This approach has a low barrier of entry, the opportunity to follow up with educational communications, inclusive targeting, and pledges and public recognition have been shown to drive changes in behavior.
We built the Forecast Pledge on top of our existing web content management system and email communication platform. We purposely kept the number of fields small, to collect information that would help our outreach efforts and keep the pledge process short and simple. As an incentive, we offered a free class for one person at random who signs before December 1. This was designed to help with promotions and conversions among the target audience. The type of incentive is crucial. We wanted to stay focused on our target audience, so we restricted the incentives to only education and purposely did not offer skis or outerwear. The result was a landing page which converted visits to pledges at a rate of over 25%.
Realizing that we needed to expand our ability to communicate with backcountry users in addition to our social, email, and web channels, we chose to use our CRM platform MailChimp to execute the form because of the ability to execute an automated “drip” campaign of educational material to pledge takers. After an immediate thank you message, pledge takers receive spaced out email messaging including short videos from the National Avalanche Center and links to find education opportunities. This series of emails can be edited and optimized as we see how users interact with the content. We then move the users into our normal audience to receive ad hoc messaging about safety and support, from which they can unsubscribe from at any time.
While many are worried about an influx of new users to the backcountry, the CAIC records indicate that most of the avalanche incidents in Colorado after March 12, 2020 (the date of a state mandated ski resort closure) did not involve avalanche beginners. Our goal is to communicate safety messaging with everyone – and we took care to design ForecastPledge.org to resonate with all experience levels. We didn’t want to discourage sharing and participation by having people or partner brands reluctant to look like they were indicating they were a “newbie.” We also took care to include many user groups in the imagery to encourage an inclusive backcountry community.
Committing to an action has been shown in studies to make taking that action more likely. This is why pledges are common amongst voting campaigns. Plus, there is evidence that people are even more likely to change their behavior when a component of public recognition is tied into a pledge. We designed the pledge messaging to be an opportunity for takers to display social proof of whatever activity they associate themselves with, by encouraging them to share that they took it along with a photo of themselves. Our hope was that by giving them “permission” to post a flattering picture of themselves, they would be more likely to share the pledge, and that was what we saw.
In all, we’ve driven over 2,000 Coloradoans to pledge to check the forecast before the snow even started falling, and we aim to increase that amount several times over by the end of the season. Open rates are in the 60% range for the followup emails, and the short videos have thousands of views. Brands and media outlets across the industry jumped on board to help share the pledge, and both Friends of CAIC and the CAIC continue to be tagged in stories and posts on social media. We’re pleased with the results so far and options abound for how to expand and improve upon this program.
Geller, E. Scott and Galen R. Lehman. “The Buckle-Up Promise Card: A Versatile Intervention for Large-Scale Behavior Change.” Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, Vol. 24, No. 1, pp.91-94. Spring 1991.
Cotterill, Sarah, Peter John, & Liz Richardson. “The Impact of a Pledge Request and the Promise of Publicity: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Charitable Donations.” Social Science Quarterly, Vol. 94, No. 1, pp.200-216. March 2013.
Featured image: Andrew Gloor via Unsplash