In early 2017, Closed Loop Foundation and its partners engaged M+R in a multi-phase effort to drive a positive narrative about recycling in the media. During the first phase of work, M+R began with a discovery process and developed a message architecture designed to reach four key audiences: local government officials; investors, recycling business owners, and entrepreneurs; c-suite executives; and consumers. In the second phase of work, M+R built a communications plan and implemented an earned media strategy to amplify these messages and the stories of spokespeople in the recycling industry identified by the partners.
The coalition came away with some clear wins, which suggest that this work could be replicated in the future to even greater success. Here is a snapshot of key accomplishments:
- Placed a letter to the editor in USA Today authored by Lakeshore Recycling’s CEO Alan Handley, highlighting the profitability of recycling;
- Placed a letter to the editor in Governing magazine authored by Robert Knecht, public works director for the City of Memphis, emphasizing the benefits of recycling for municipalities;
- Placed an op-ed in The Hill authored by Ron Gonen, co-founder and managing partner of Closed Loop Partners, focused on potential budget cuts to federal recycling programs;
- Secured positive coverage of AMP Robotics and its mechanical sorting arm “Clarke” in numerous outlets in Colorado, including Boulder Weekly, ColoradoBiz, and Colorado Public Radio;
- Proactive outreach in Colorado led to not only an increase in pro-recycling stories in the state, but also helped with the dissemination of positive messages about recycling as a means to counter the false narrative that recycling “doesn’t work.”
- Local stories were also picked up organically by national outlets (for example, Engadget covered AMP Robotics after finding out about them through the Colorado Public Radio story). This shows that the message frames have the ability to break-through beyond the state and regional level.
- Secured story in Bloomberg BNA about e-waste recycling, which included an interview with spokesperson John Shegerian, founder of Electronic Recyclers International;
- Placed a letter to the editor in MinnPost authored by Keefe Harrison, CEO of The Recycling Partnership emphasizing the importance of Rep. Keith Ellison’s zero waste legislation; and
- Placed a letter to the editor in The Daily Iowan by Kathy Morris, director of the Waste Commission of Scott County, IA, focused on the importance of recycling to help combat climate change.
Recommendations for future iterations of this work include:
- Continuing to cultivate spokespeople who can talk about complex issues in ways that are compelling and easy to understand for the general public; who feel comfortable delivering key messages; and who can stay cool under pressure and make themselves available for press opportunities;
- Pursuing pitches that are timely, relevant to reporters’ interests, and offer information that is new and compelling. It’s also important to tap into larger media narratives and have an effective rapid response operation in place in order to capitalize on opportunities when they arise; and
- Continuing to test a range of message frames including and in addition to the innovation messaging that worked particularly well during our engagement.