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Case study

Potential Energy Coalition

Learn how Brandwatch is helping the Potential Energy Coalition monitor social conversations around climate change and improve their Science Moms campaign

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Case studyPotential Energy Coalition

Earlier this year the Potential Energy Coalition launched an initiative intended to demystify climate science among mothers in the United States, increase the level of conversation about climate change, and ultimately motivate urgent action.

In this case study, we’ll walk you through the different ways the PEC uses Brandwatch Consumer Research for campaign management, and how the platform empowers their marketing and analytics teams to tell meaningful stories with data.

Throughout, you’ll hear from the Potential Energy Coalition’s Director of Strategy and Operations, Zander Sebenius, on how the PEC has been leveraging insights discovered with the help of Brandwatch Consumer Research. 

The start of the Science Moms campaign

PEC’s team has done an enormous amount of research, and one of the insights that they’ve discovered is that moms – especially in the US – are incredibly influential within their communities and families, and can impact real change (eg Mothers Against Drunk Driving).

Climate change has been in the media for a long time, with stories like polar bear extinction and ice caps melting becoming commonplace. While these stories can activate some people, for the mainstream American public they don’t have much impact. “If you are a busy mom and have 1,000 things to do, you don’t have time to worry about polar bears,” said Zander.

To activate an audience, you’ve got to make your issue relevant. What’s a better way to reach moms on this subject than through a climate scientist who is a mom, and who understands what it’s like to be raising a child while knowing what the future could hold?

From this idea, the Science Moms platform was born. 

Leveraging the right tools and making sense of the social conversation

An important first step in the Science Moms campaign was to understand how climate change is being discussed on the internet. Typically, the climate policy conversation online spins around trending topics like the Green New Deal. There’s also a lot of climate fear online, for example talking about global warming and extreme weather causing animal and plant species extinction, wildfires, and clean water becoming a scarce resource.

Zander shared that in the past he’s used several tools to monitor the online conversation but struggled to get to the insight. “You don’t really know what you are getting, and it’s super high-level,” he said.

With Brandwatch Consumer Research, Zander’s team was able to dig deeper into the conversation and discover valuable insights that helped in the initial stages of the campaign. They were able to discover:

  • What are the biggest topics in the climate change conversation online?
  • What are ‘regular people’ (non-scientists or politicians) talking about in relation to climate change? 

The team were able to easily pick up on what was trending, but they also spotted an opportunity in what wasn't being talked about – how climate change relates to people's day-to-day lives and worries. Parents want their children to have the same opportunities, see the same animals, and not have to face dangerous weather conditions, so the PEC team wants to bring these topics to the forefront.

Gathering initial reactions on social

With their discovery in mind, the PEC team built a challenge statement: How do we move moderate moms to care about climate change and strongly support immediate government action?

Essentially, the challenge was ‘how do you actually change someone’s mind?’

You can show them the content, but to get the strongest response you’d ideally deliver that content via someone they trust. For moms, that’s likely to be other moms. And that’s exactly what the team did. The Science Moms campaign went live in January, and the team committed to crafting messages in a non-partisan way, making the content highly relatable to the target audience.

The team also took on the ‘surround sound’ approach to marketing, creating many touch points for the campaign from getting on TV, to going live on Instagram, to programmatic, to connected TV, to paid media channels, to simple organic posting.

To date, the campaign has over 3,050 media hits, including 1,910 top tier print/digital articles (LA Times, Washington Post, People Magazine, The New Yorker), as well as hundreds of broadcast TV and radio interviews, from NBC Nightly News, to Good Morning America, to CNN, to NPR's On Point.

The next very important step in the campaign launch was for the team to start monitoring the online conversation for reactions and signals coming from the data.

PEC’s analysts built queries within Brandwatch Consumer Research that helped them answer questions like:

  • How is the content being received?
  • Where is Science Moms content being picked up?
  • Are there any spikes in conversations on social media?
  • What is the earned media reach? 
“Brandwatch has enabled PEC to understand – and react to – how Science Moms is perceived in the digital world.”
— Zander Sebenius, Director, Strategy and Operations, Potential Energy Coalition

Use case spotlight: Monitoring earned media

Another important question that PEC’s team was looking to understand was ‘How is Science Moms (as a brand) being used?’

While figuring out how to reach various types of mothers in as many ways as possible and increase the level of conversation, Zander’s earned media strategy landed them media coverage in many reputable publications as well as on TV. (See list above)

Monitoring the effectiveness of the campaign after securing a spot on TV was especially difficult as PEC is not selling anything physically – sales lift would be one of the metrics a typical organization might use. So the team turned to Brandwatch Consumer Research to monitor surges in mention volume around climate change and the Science Moms brand, a key metric for them.

One of the surprising discoveries that came along with the research was a documentary called Science Moms that was not related to any of their efforts. “It was great that we were able to separate all that conversation with the help of Brandwatch,” Zander says.

Segmenting the data meaningfully

Once the campaign was in full swing, PEC’s analytics team used Brandwatch Consumer Research to segment the data and filter out irrelevant topics. They were able to observe conversations that contained action words around their recent campaign by searching for terms like “act now” and the campaign hashtag #LaterIsTooLate.

“We’ve used other technology and I can tell you that Brandwatch Consumer Research is superior in almost every single way.”
— Zander Sebenius, Director, Strategy and Operations, Potential Energy Coalition

While leveraging the platform, two capabilities stood out to PEC.

The first thing that caught the team’s eye was the high level of customization, with dashboards providing the granularity needed for deeper reporting and analysis.

Another aspect that PEC’s team really liked was the control that the platform offers. It allowed the in-house analytics team to create multiple queries and extract data that provided detailed answers to many brand- and campaign-related questions. “You can write queries to find out exactly what you are looking for,” Zander said. The team has been able to discover many mentions that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Use case spotlight: Custom sentiment analysis with Custom Classifiers

Monitoring sentiment was hugely important to Zander’s team. When you are working on changing perceptions about an environmental crisis, you want people to deeply care about the issue. Is it resonating? 

"Brandwatch tools have been very helpful in understanding how the world has perceived this brand that we’ve put out there."
— Zander Sebenius, Director, Strategy and Operations, Potential Energy Coalition

The analytics and insights team made good use of Brandwatch Consumer Research’s Custom Classifiers feature, which uses machine learning to enable users to categorize mentions without the need to write complex keyword strings. This feature is particularly useful when a category is difficult to define with keywords, such as sentiment relating to a niche topic.

Zander shared that the team trained Custom Classifiers to recognize when people talked about climate change using words that are negative but the context was actually positive (eg “I don’t want my kids to grow up without seeing snow or forest or polar bears.”) 

"At first we saw a lot of negative sentiment, with people saying they don’t want their children to have a bad future, and we have to act on climate change. For us, this is actually positive, and we were able to train Custom Classifiers to recognize such differences."
— Zander Sebenius, Director, Strategy and Operations, Potential Energy Coalition

Use case spotlight: Analyzing language around the campaign with word clouds

One of the most useful ways to quickly visualize the data and make sense of some of the unfolding themes is by creating a word cloud. This feature helped the PEC team recognize the difference between what the typical conversation would look like, and how it was changing since the launch of the campaign. The words that were popping up in conversations were very different (eg change, #MothersLove, #ClimateActionNow, future generations, etc.) 

“The word cloud is such a powerful tool. Obviously, we look at reach, mentions, and we track everything, but to me the word cloud is such a nice summary of such an enormous amount of information in such an easily digestible format.“
— Zander Sebenius, Director, Strategy and Operations, Potential Energy Coalition

For example, the Science Moms campaign had its own hashtag: #LaterIsTooLate. 

“We want to drill this phrase into the conversation for people to understand that if they have a kid right now, by the time the kid goes to college if no significant progress on the climate issue has been made, our planet is doomed. Later is too late to act. The same way that you can’t wait to save for your kid’s college, you can’t wait to start acting on climate change,” Zander says.

The PEC team was really excited to see that #LaterIsTooLate started showing up prominently in conversations around the campaign. 

“While tracking reach, mentions, and where those mentions are happening is important, to be able to see what the conversation looks like is super helpful,” Zander said.

The PEC team initiated a big push around Earth Day, and they were pleasantly surprised by seeing spikes in conversations when the campaign’s content reached and got picked up by an influencer.

Brandwatch’s AI-powered assistant Iris helped Zander’s team by automatically analyzing peaks in their dataset and explaining what caused the conversation to grow.

Throughout the campaign, the team have seen various peaks. For example, this tweet from Kris Jenner caused a significant spike in conversation.

Analyzing spikes in conversation with Iris makes the process of identifying what’s driving conversation at a particular time much easier. You don’t need to manually trawl through mentions – Iris will show you what’s trending.


In conclusion to our conversation, Zander shared that his team is always looking for more opportunities to further the Science Moms campaign, and understanding the social conversation around climate change is an important part of that. The Science Moms campaign is an ongoing effort with various events planned for the future. 

As they move forward, Zander and his team are measuring the success of their efforts by asking three key questions:

  1. Are we changing beliefs and conversations?
  2. Are we changing behaviors? Can we actually get someone to take action? In some cases, this is easily tracked as users can send a letter to their elective officials by tapping the link on the Science Moms website. 
  3. Are we seeing key opinion leaders adopting our narrative? Understanding the social conversation around climate change is a fundamental part of the Potential Energy Coalition’s success.
"Brandwatch is a great example of a partner that’s giving us amazing cutting-edge marketing technology that we then pair with our in-house analytics team to really understand the impact of our work. We are grateful for your partnership."
— Zander Sebenius, Director, Strategy and Operations, Potential Energy Coalition

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