In case you didn’t notice, Las Vegas is in the middle of the desert. Water conservation has become a way of life for most residents – using less, means more. Each year, the Southern Nevada Water Authority reminds residents to help conserve and save water by changing their watering clocks to comply with mandatory watering restrictions. Previous campaigns were English only and missing a key demographic of the valley – our Spanish-speaking audience.
Southern Nevada Hispanics live in multigenerational households with about 40 percent of them primarily speaking Spanish at home. Our task was to create a campaign that would resonate with the Hispanic audience, tapping into the cultural nuances to incite action.
Creative development was headed up by CMV/R&R out of Mexico City. The team landed on a theme common to many, but especially in Hispanic households. That theme was “Ahorita,” which can mean “I’ll get to it now,” but as it’s more commonly used, the task will “get put off” indefinitely. Imagine a wife asking her husband to take out the trash or do the dishes; his response, “Ahorita.” We all know what that means. It’s the eternal struggle between spouses. “Yes, dear, I’ll do that now” and yet, it doesn’t get done.
As with previous SNWA spots, such as “There’s Nothing Sexier Than Saving Water” or the infamous and Effie award-winning “Mrs. Nuttington,” “Ahorita” uses humor to engage audiences, which ultimately entertains as well as gets the main message across.
“Ahorita” is an integrated campaign that includes broadcast, radio, print and digital executions.
Although it may at times feel otherwise, 2016 is not without its occasions for national unity and celebration. As the National Park Service turns 100 years old, our national treasures and those leaders dedicated to preserving them deserve our awe and admiration.
One such leader, former Congressman Steven Horsford, currently directs R&R Resources+ and manages the Washington, D.C., office of international marketing communications and government affairs firm, R&R Partners. In 2014, Congressman Horsford and other members of Nevada’s congressional delegation worked in a bipartisan manner to pass legislation that would create the Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument. “The fact that a literal ice age of artifacts exists just miles from the Las Vegas Strip and can be shared with local residents and millions of tourists alike, made it something I had to get behind to push through Congress,” said Horsford. More than 22,000 acres in size, Tule Springs is revered for its numerous paleontological and archeological sites.
While enthusiasm for the preservation of the fossil beds was expected from a broad range of conservationists and scientists, business leaders also applauded the designation, indicating once more that companies understand that sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) are not passing trends. Horsford notes, “From the very beginning of the process, business leaders joined with the conservation community and local elected officials to make the case for why Tule Springs should be designated as a national monument.”
CSR and Diversity
Horsford doesn’t just grasp and provide leadership on issues surrounding CSR and sustainability. As the first African-American elected to Congress from the state of Nevada, he also knows a thing or two about diversity. He oversees R&R’s integrated services efforts in diversity media training and corporate communications, workforce and vendor/supplier engagement, and international affairs for R&R’s nine offices throughout the U.S. and Mexico City. “Moreover, the idea that young people from all over the surrounding communities, including those from diverse backgrounds who may not have the same opportunity to experience something like what Tule Springs offers, also was a major selling point,” he said.
Horsford has a commanding presence at the crossroads of diversity, politics, business and sustainability. This intersection represents today’s business reality and is a place from which we should all be striving to lead—after returning from celebrating the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary at Tule Springs, of course.
If you’re unfamiliar with the acronym “GPA,” you’re not alone. While its scope is one of the largest at R&R Partners, with nine different offices in six states and in Washington, D.C., the government and public affairs (GPA) department is probably the least familiar to our fellow employees, let alone the people and communities we serve.
Our most common activity is building relationships and speaking directly with elected officials and key community leaders at every level on behalf of our clients. Unlike many firms, R&R has clients of just about every size, industry and need. Here in Nevada, we routinely work with city council members, mayors, county commissioners, federal and state legislators, and governors on issues big and small. Our clients include well-known names like Microsoft, Herbalife, the Cleveland Clinic and American Medical Response. All have tremendous impact on our communities.
But access to decision makers is an increasingly small part of success in this arena. Modern political “lobbying” and relationship building is a far cry from the smoke-filled rooms of a century ago. Today, our best weapon is education. Term limits, a high-intensity news cycle and a younger generation of politicians means we need to know our issues like energy, the environment and economic development better than anyone. This expertise is put to use persuading decision makers to adopt the best policies possible.
So now that you’re more familiar with what we do, you may be wondering what success looks like in GPA. Here are some examples of recent successes here at R&R:
Competing against nearly every other state, many with highly successful economic development programs, our Nevada GPA team helped broker a deal to locate Faraday Future’s (billion-dollar electric car company) first U.S. factory here in Southern Nevada. This project alone could bring 4,500 new jobs to the area.
Our Denver GPA team helped create an innovative program that will be a model for Colorado School Districts. Colorado State University will locate a new administration building on property owned by the Aurora Public Schools. Instead of a traditional lease, this program will allow CSU to pay the school system in tuition credits, allowing the Aurora superintendent to provide four-year scholarships to potentially 200 public school students. Many of these students will be the first in their families to attend college and otherwise be without the means to afford higher education.
More than 60,000 refugees currently reside in Salt Lake County. This extraordinary demographic transformation provided an opportunity for our Utah GPA team to work with our client, the Partnership for a New American Economy, to engage local leaders and community members to build a more welcoming community that helps maximize the contributions of these new Americans.
In Nevada, our GPA team also authored and fought to pass landmark anti-bullying in schools legislation, helping protect the most vulnerable among us. The amount of money we helped get dedicated toward the general fund for anti-bullying efforts – specifically, in creating the Office of Safe and Respectful Learning within the Nevada Department of Education – helped secure $16 million in funding for schools to contract with social workers to address the problem. Officials say the program will be in 140 schools in the first year and 280 in the second year.
While often the least publicized successes of our agency, the work of our GPA team often has the most direct and widespread impact on many of our lives, and that’s a very visible thing in the communities in which we work, learn and live our lives.
Recently, the R&R Partners Foundation Employee Board agreed to coordinate a $1,000 donation on behalf of the Foundation to the 23rd annual Latino Youth Leadership Conference (LYLC). The LYLC empowers youth through the pursuit and completion of higher education, while emphasizing the importance of community, cultural and civic engagement.
“Going into the program, I felt confident in myself due to my grades at school, extracurricular programs and other organizations I’m involved in,” said Kimberlyn Mejia, a junior at Canyon Springs High School and aspiring attorney, who graduated from the program this year. “However, my experience at the LYLC was filled with more motivation and knowledge that only this program could have provided. I left with an understanding of how I can improve my future and how to be a hero in our community.”
As a participant in the LYLC class of 2000, Jennifer López, a senior public relations account executive at R&R, is also able to say firsthand that the program changed her life. And because of that, she’s been involved in supporting the program in various capacities for over a decade. This year, Jennifer was invited to serve as a speaker during the career exploration session. She proudly represented R&R and shared with the audience (90+ youth and community professionals) the amazing work that the agency does.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the LYLC,” said López. “It opened the door to many professional and personal opportunities. It’s my honor to represent R&R at such an important event where, undoubtedly, we connected with several youth who want to enter the field of public relations, marketing and advertising. I’m thankful the employee Bboard understands the value in investing in our future leaders.”
The LYLC would not be able to serve our Latino and Latina youth without the Foundation’s generous support. If you’d like to get involved in this important cause or have an incoming junior or senior in Southern Nevada who may be interested in applying to next year’s program, visit lylc.info.
R&R Partners is a part of and attended a recent Nevada Corporate Giving Council. The renowned guest speaker, Edmund Cain from the Hilton Foundation said that CSR is no longer being looked at as social responsibility, but rather as corporate survival. All companies whether their size should do their part to impact society.
Cain provided three helpful tips as it relates to prioritizing your corporate social responsibility programs: be respectful of the donor intent (ideally it’s for impact versus for cost of doing business); do the analytics (what are the pressing issues); how can your works be leveraged (with collaboration amongst other groups funding).
Cain also touched on his recently published blog on why foundations should keep global sustainability issues top of mind.
Cain complimented the work being done in Nevada, and gave a nod to much of Conrad Hilton’s successes stemming from his ownership days of the Las Vegas Hilton and Flamingo Hotel. For more information on the Nevada Corporate Giving Council’s annual philanthropy report, see recent BusinessPress article.
Upon reflection after the event I attended, I thought about what CSR means to R&R, and it is at the heart of everything that we do—as an agency and for our clients. Before corporate social responsibility became essential to survival, we started the R&R Foundation, as we believe our employees and partners can come together for the greater good.
Jim King, Chairman of the R&R Foundation says, “As R&R Partners as a global marketing agency is well-known for providing creative communications solutions to a broad spectrum of clients, we want our Foundation to be known for strengthening the communities we serve.” I believe that not only is this at the heart of our culture and in living our values, but part of the lifeblood of our agency.
It all sounded so hopeful. Last autumn all the talk was about the “Godzilla of El Ninos,” forming in the Pacific Ocean and preparing to bring all of us in the western U.S. a winter positively brimming with wet, wonderful precipitation. Rain in the valleys, snow in the mountains and water everywhere the eye could see.
Meteorologists and climatologists were lining up to tell us that the models they were working on portended an El Nino unlike any we had seen since the record winter of 1997-98. States including California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Colorado that had been suffering under the jackboot of the worst drought any of us had experienced for more than a decade would finally see some relief.
It was going to be glorious.
Except, it wasn’t. In June, as we look back on the El Nino winter of 2015-16, it seems that Godzilla underachieved. Granted, the news wasn’t all bad. The Pacific Northwest had a very wet year. But that’s Washington and Oregon. Their situation isn’t nearly as dire as ours. Closer to home, rainfall in Northern California actually had what has been described as “near normal” rainfall during the season. The nature of the drought is such that a year of “near normal” is now considered cause for celebration. But, many of Northern California’s reservoirs did receive a nice jolt of new water. And that’s a very good thing.
But things were much less rosy elsewhere. The snowpack in California’s mountains was still 14% below normal for the year. Even more disappointing, the seasonal rainfall in Los Angeles was 6.59 inches. Normal for the area is 13.54 inches.
Things were no better – and no wetter – in Arizona. Arizona’s mountains recorded a less-than-normal snowpack for the sixth consecutive year, even after a very promising start to the season. Nevada had a year very much like California’s. Not bad in the mountains and lakes of Northern Nevada. But in Southern Nevada – well, it never rains or snows very much in Southern Nevada anyway.
Which brings us to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado – where the winter snowpack determines how much water will flow down the Colorado River into Lake Mead and ultimately to the millions of homes, businesses and farms in California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah – even Mexico – that depend on it as their primary source.
Again, we are forced to wonder what might have been. As in Arizona and California, the year in the Rockies got off to a very promising start. But in the months after that… more disappointments. When all was said and done, the snowpack fell 20% short of what is considered normal. Even worse, a warm March caused much of the snowpack to melt too quickly and too early to really make a difference in the downstream reservoirs like Lake Powell and Lake Mead. Granted, the region did have a very cool and wet month of May, but by then, the damage to the snowpack had been done.
Put simply, Big Daddy Drought had slapped El Nino on the butt.
There is no greater evidence of that than in the declining reserves in Lake Mead. In May of 2016, the level of the lake was measured at 1074 feet, the lowest since Hoover Dam had been completed. That level is expected to go down another five feet by the end of June. On a more optimistic note, due to some late season runoff and some extra stores that will be allowed to flow into the lake by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, it is anticipated that its level will measure 1078 feet by year’s end. That’s an important number, because it the lake measures at 1075 or less at the end of this year, it will trigger new – and harsher – restrictions on its use by all of us who depend on it for water. Cross your fingers now.
So, El Nino didn’t save us. What now? We have to continue to save ourselves. Water authorities and purveyors throughout the region need to continue to fight the good fight. Research has always shown that people in a drought-stricken area are enthusiastic to jump in and be part of the solution. They just need to know what to do, and trust that all of their neighbors are also contributing. If the drought has taught us nothing else, it has instilled in everyone in the region an awareness of the problem and a mindset to aid in the solution. Water smart habits were slowly but surely being formed. It’s vital that we keep that momentum going.
Our client, the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) is about to introduce an aggressive new water-saving program this summer, while continuing the other sustainable water management programs we have established over the past two decades that have resulted in some astounding savings. But we in Southern Nevada are old hands at drought, and the SNWA is viewed internationally as a leader in water conservation programs and marketing.
The key is that people, businesses and governments in all of the areas that depend on water that we all hope nature will deliver adopt a similar mindset and attitude, proactively changing behavior to conform to a reality that we’re ultimately going to have to save ourselves.
Because now we know one thing for sure – El Nino isn’t coming to the rescue anytime soon.