5 PR Lessons From ‘Earth Day’

This week's #5Things is going green about PR.

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PHOTO: Getty Images…and Earth
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Today, we celebrate Mother Nature, a woman who doesn’t need Botox or collagen to maintain the color, the radiance, and overall sense of life she exudes.

Yes, it’s Earth Day, an important time to learn about recycling, sustainability, “going green,” and anything else that has to do with protecting this planet’s ecosystem.

For many of our clients, this is also a big public relations day, so what can we learn from the hubbub in the headlines on this most sacrosanct and granola of times? That’s this week’s #5Things: 5 PR Lessons from Earth Day.

1. Stopping Junk Mail is Great for Clients…and the Environment

junk emailWe all have that one client who refuses to experiment with social media. You know the guy: flip phone, toupee, horrible case of halitosis? Yeah, him.

Going digital worries these folks because they can’t hold it or touch it. However, each year, there are more than 100 billion pieces of junk mail delivered to U.S. citizens. That should make you wonder about your pitches, too.

We are inundated with crap in our mailbox and inbox that provides us with no real value whatsoever. What are you doing to stop that? What value do you provide your media contacts? Look at your pitches — make them short, sweet, and environmentally friendly by removing the junk. (That means send fewer emails overall.)

2. Earth Day Is Like Your Campaigns — It Can Take a While to Catch On

Plant-the-seedThe birth of the modern environmental movement didn’t have anything to do with Millennials or fair trade java.

The first official Earth Day was in 1970. Peace, love, and the occasional puff-puff-pass made it the messaging bonanza it is today.

In other words, some of the best things around aren’t viral sensations, and they aren’t trending on Twitter.

The work that creates real change by encouraging people to stop and THINK about things has to have that elusive “slow-burn” quality to last. Consider that the next time your campaign doesn’t have the “immediate” impact your client desires. Work for the grassroots outreach — plant a seed and watch it grow.

PR, just like gardening, takes a lot of patience.

3. Recycling the Newspaper is Good for the Environment…And Our Industry

recycled-paper-1DYK that only 30% of the Sunday newspaper gets recycled these days?

If we could somehow recycle 100% of that doorstop, we could save 250 million trees a year. The paper can be used for great things: it once served as the roadmap for decision making, story telling, and soothsaying in this country.

Today, publishers are closing up shop because they can’t keep up with the Internet. Paywalls suck and native advertising is (very slowly) coming along. However, with so many options out there, how does the much-maligned newspaper recycle itself to stay relevant?

Your guess is as good as ours, but if you have some ideas, please share them with every newspaper editor out there. As we all know, media and PR are part of the same crucial, increasingly fragile ecosystem.

4. Thought Leadership is Fleeting; Industry Leadership is Forever

gaylord-nelson-st-croix-riverQuick Quiz: Who is Gaylord Nelson?

Your cable guy? The dude at your local UPS store? That nice cat who gives you extra schmear on your bagel?

U.S. Senator Nelson is considered the father of Earth Day. According to his bio, “Nelson’s efforts contributed to the passage of various environmental laws, including the Environmental Protection Act.  He conceived the idea of Earth Day, which American Heritage Magazine called one of the most remarkable happenings in the history of democracy.”

We all have clients who want notoriety. It’s ego…we get it.

However, the ones who want to be real agents of change value prestige more for its effects on their own advocacy efforts. A well-shared LinkedIn post is great, but longevity comes about when a string of posts make people think and act. Gaylord Nelson may not be a name you recognize, but his actions are what make us all think and, at times, act.

That’s exactly what he wanted to accomplish in the first place.

5. Never Underestimate a Strong CTA.

call_to_actionThe “call-to-action” is a diamond in the rough for all PR professionals.

Not all campaigns use it as effectively as Earth Day: today, we are reminded to recycle, hug a tree, turn off the lights, consider public transportation, and remember what our planet means to us…without it, what else do we have?

Your next truly great campaign will have one strong CTA that forces people to do more than share on social and bring up a topic near that vanishing water cooler. It will become a catalyst for change — and that’s the goal for the good businesses, the great CEOs, and the truly stellar PR peeps.

Be the type of person in this industry who can create more than a sweet headline: help create something that will outlast your billability.

SOURCES: Ecocycle.org, EarthDay.org, DoSomething.org, Wilderness.org