mackenzieyelvington


Gratitude

I’m sure my degree in public relations from University of North Texas will take me far. I have learned so much from each one of my professors, and have decided to highlight a few in my final blog for my final class. 

 

  • Professor Nikhil Morrow, who taught my first journalism writing class, helped me understand how to approach the world with a journalistic mind set. His “little golden nuggets of wisdom” remind me that if something is happening, I should always ask why. He taught me to withhold my own judgments and to be inquisitive and see things objectively.
  • Professor Strutton, who teaches marketing, taught me that in marketing it is all about value. Any message that a marketer, journalist, advertiser or PR practitioner creates must contain value in order to be received by the intended audience. As message senders it is up to us to figure out what our desired audience places the most value in. If we can find it and somehow relate our product to it, the audience will be much more receptive to our product or message. When I learned this, I had no idea how much it would be a part of the rest of my PR degree.
  • Professor Bill Ford taught me many things that I will take into my future. In addition to all of the computer programs that he taught me to manipulate, he also taught me the importance of proximity and white space. Although I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed design, Ford taught me the importance of a critical eye and proximal objects. I don’t believe before him I appreciated just how much a teensy-weensy-little-micro-milimeter move can improve a design.
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  • Professor Kathy Hinnen is a wonderful woman! At first I think I thought “geez this woman is trying to kill us,” but now I understand that she was simply conveying the importance of proper grammar. Anytime I’m talking about her class I say that although I knew the how to make the grammar correct, in Hinnen’s class, I learned why it is correct. I don’t think I would be half of the proof-reader I am today had it not been for professor Hinnen’s awesomeness.
  • My final PR class is the one for which I have started writing my blog again. I was so scared at the beginning of the semester because I had heard how tough Professor Bufkins was, but I can say now that those who complained must have just not gotten it. Everything I have learned from Buf has been awesome, but one of the most important things she taught me is that every single message sent should been crafted and sent strategically.
  • A message, especially one on behalf of a brand or company, has so much impact that it must be made very carefully. Most anything written in this digital age can spread like wildfire if it contains the right components. A mistaken Tweet or Facebook post, for instance, could make the broadcast news if sent by the right person at the right time. That is only a negative reason messages should be crafted carefully, the positive list of reasons why is a whole other blog post. 

I just want to thank these professors for all of their dedication, enthusiasm and knowledge. Everything they have taught me and every interaction we have shared has helped me on this path to graduation and will impact my life for years to come.

 

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A Monster of a Promotional Event

monstercycle

Annually, Monster Energy Drink sponsors the AMA motocross race tournaments and many professional riders. It is a strategy Monster has used for years to gain popularity with potential consumers and build brand loyalty, which has proven very successful.

Knowing and delivering what its target audience values, Monster sponsors the motocross pit along with the races that it sponsors. The pit is complete with rider meet-and-greets and brand booths set up with plenty of merchandise and free promotional premiums.

The best part about the Monster pit is that pit passes are free to any race-goes who bring an empty Monster can to “redeem” or recycle. Beaming fans eagerly spoke about the fun they experienced in the pit as they reported their experiences to an ESPN reporter during the 2013 X-Games.

As the X-Games is often referred to as the Super Bowl of extreme sports, Monster marketing execs knew that the coverage that the pit received during the event would reach millions of viewers and potential consumers.

As the green movement progresses, brands are trying to get in on the conversation, and Monster’s free pit pass in exchange for can redemption program exemplifies a successful attempt. Not only is Monster showing its commitment to environmental stewardship, it is also promoting sustainable behavioral change and providing its consumers with an experience that they will value at the same time.

The can redemption program also provided Monster with plenty of content for social media such as YouTube, as you can see in the video below.

Although the event was not primarily focused on recycling, it continues to be a success both sustainably and in marketing. Fans to get to experience acting sustainably with ease, the fun they have at the event and the ease of the action will hopefully remind them to recycle next time they drink a Monster energy drink.


The Need for Purpose in an Ever More Aware Consumer Environment

Purpose is becoming increasingly important in consumer buying decisions concerning brand. According to Elderman PR’s blog, “When quality and price are equal, the most important factor influencing brand choice is Purpose.” Elderman has been providing PR counsel for more than 60 years and has created strategies for leading sustainable brands.

Elderman conducts an annual goodpurpose survey in 16 countries among 8,000 adults and measures the adult consumer’s commitment to societal issues including a brand’s social purpose and a consumer’s expectations of brand and corporation. The image below compares the goodpurpose study’s findings for consumers’ commitment to purpose when price and quality are equal.

purpose

 

Social purpose can be defined as actions of a company or brand that support its employees, value the customer over the bottom line and contribute to the society in which it survives. Societal contributions can help the environment, people and economic state of the society. Thinking about sustainability through social lenses will help one understand the need for sustainable actions.

If a brand or company can consider itself as part of the society, it will understand the need to support it rather than simply take from it. The action doesn’t have to be purchasing a big expensive machine that makes operations more energy efficient (although that’s great too); it can be as simple as sponsoring a youth sports team or implementing a work-place recycling program. It can be as great as Ben & Jerry’s Livable Wage program or Patagonia’s Common Threads program for recycling Patagonia products.

Whatever the action, it’s important to talk about it to your consumers. This study shows that more and more if a consumer knows what a brand does for its society they are more likely to choose that brand over a similar competitor.  If consumers don’t know about the company’s actions, they can’t make the choice to choose the more responsible brand.

A print or news media campaign isn’t necessary. Mentioning good-doings on social media platforms is a good way to spread the word and creates an easy way for audiences to share the information with their friends. As always, the more people engage in conversation about sustainable practices, the more common those practices will become.

 


Five Ways to Help Encourage Behavioral Change from Unilever

Green or sustainable marketing is largely focused on behavioral change. Univlever has developed a model with five ways to frame sustainability messaging so as to encourage the behavior change that your brand desires. The infographic below illustrates the five ways.

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The first and most important is Make it Understood. If behavior change is desired, the consumers need to understand why they should change their ways.

The words selected to convey the message need to be well thought out and carefully chosen. The best words will be specific and convey concrete ideas. It is also important to articulate exactly why the consumer needs to change their behavior.

Studies show that people are much more receptive to doing what you ask them if you provide them with a rational reason why. If the message conveys exactly what solution is provided by the changed action, people are much more likely to take part in the behavioral change.

The second is Make it Easy. This one is also very important. After consumers are inspired to alter their behavior, actually getting them to do it is more difficult. If you make the action easy for them, they are more likely to do it.

It’s hard enough to remember to do something new, but if it’s difficult it’s even harder to remember. A great example is of reusable grocery bags. I have about 20 of them, but remembering to take them into the store or back out to my car after I carry my groceries in is a totally different story.

The third is Make it Desireable. Not only should the action or product be socially, financially or environmentally savvy, it should also be something that the consumer actually wants. This is the only way to achieve behavioral change.

Think about your target audience—from what do they derive value?

What competitive advantage does your product hold in the consumer’s eyes? Remind them, and remind them of the action or product’s value whenever possible.

The fourth is Make it Rewarding. This is where you can get creative. As much as everyone enjoys physical rewards, they can also come in the form of emotional satisfaction. The emotional rewards can be the good feeling associated with making good decisions or the confidence that comes with completing an action that you desire to complete, among others.

The fifth is Make it a Habbit.  To truly call the results of your marketing action behavioral change, the desired consumer behavior needs to be sustained over a period of time. Turning new actions into habits can be done with positive reinforcement or simply repition.

Try to determine what specifically encouraged the change. What about that can act as reinforcement or repetition? A wonderful example of an action that builds consumer habits is that of credit card companies that offer points for purchases.

Through rewards, credit card companies can encourage consumers to build the habit of purchasing needs with their card. Consumers derive value from the points they gain and the companies derive value from the consumers experiencing what it’s like to make most of their purchases on their card.


Seven Sustainable Things to Consider When Planning Your Event

Hosting an event is a wonderful way to honor or support stakeholders who are valuable to your business. Events bolster all ready loyal relationships and add value and loyalty to new relationships you want to develop.

An event is a great opportunity for a company to remind stakeholders of its sustainable initiatives. Events provide a plethora of opportunities to showcase how a company considers sustainability in its business practices.

  1. Every single part of the planning process can be seen through a sustainable lens.  Before finalizing decisions ask, “Can this be done more sustainably?” The answer may often be yes.
  2. Location. Location. Location. There are many ways to achieve sustainability in venue selection. The event could be held in a USGBC LEED Certified building or a building that has taken into consideration energy use and sourcing. Another way to think about a venue sustainably is to support a local venue or have the venue donated.
  3. Sustainable sourcing is a great way to green your event. If you’re serving food, goods or services or hosting musicians try to hire local and responsible businesses first. Also consider the business practices of companies that supply the sourced goods and whether their business goals align with your own.
  4. Waste not, want not. Consider waste management in every step of your planning.  Cut down on printing waste by sending e-invites and digitally displaying or having links to information during the event. Also be sure to include recycling receptacles and signage during the event. Try to purchase or reuse reusable items.
  5. Minimize resource use. Try to implement responsible resource use. Events are inherently heavy on the resource use. Be mindful of using natural light when possible, only using water when necessary and not using more energy than absolutely needed.
  6. Consider cultures and values of all guests. Try to know or learn the values of the various cultures that will be present at your event. Be mindful that in some cultures, colors and traditions may translate differently than in your own. If having food, integrating the various cultures that are present is a wonderful way to show respect for those cultures.
  7. Promotion. Don’t be ashamed to brag about all of the steps that you took to green your event. You also might consider getting it certified if you have the time to do so; certification can provide concrete proof of the sustainability of your event. The more people who talk about it, the easier it is to create a culture that values sustainability.

Greening your event gives it one more competitive advantage on top of all the value you will all ready be offering your attendees. Your attendees will remember the effort you put into greening your event and they will talk about it to their friends.


Positive Interaction

With so much focus on social media, many companies want to integrate social media into the marketing mix. Unfortunately, some of the companies participating in social media don’t truly understand the benefit of the two-way conversation that it can provide if used correctly.

Below is an example from the Patagonia Facebook page that highlights how the benefits of social media can help a company spread the word of its greatness. The conversation started with Patagonia posting pictures from and event they held in store during the Austin, Texas SXSW show. The event supported a locally owned restaurant and hosted local musicians; very sustainable.

pattweet

One of the most obvious ways to spark a conversation on social media is to ask a question of your viewers. It should be relevant enough to prompt an answer from them. However, be mindful of asking questions that might spark debate amongst your target audience. A healthy debate is usually beneficial, but your company’s Facebook page may not be the best place for it.

Brands that speak about their sustainable actions openly may ask questions such as

  • We do “X” to save 100 million gallons of water in clothing production annually, How do you do your part to conserve water?
  • What is your favorite way to re-use an item that otherwise would have been sent to the landfill?
  • What actions do you take that make you the most proud? We are really proud to say that …”

People enjoy the chance to brag about their lives on social media, it sometimes seems to be the main reason for usage. Supplying a chance to brag is an excellent way to encourage social media conversation.

Another way to encourage conversation is to share empowering, positive or educational things that you find helpful. More than likely your audience will appreciate what you have shared. A post such as this could look like:

                This short video clip always reminds me that there are smart and inspired people everywhere.  YouTube.xlyh4jg.com  What is your take away from it?

The most important thing to remember when posting content to social media is that people will appreciate messages which contain value, and will be annoyed by meaningless fluff. If a person on Facebook likes your brand, then your content will often show up in their feed. A company should keep that in mind and remember if they post invaluable, meaningless stuff; it is a surefire way to be “UNFRIENDED”…Gasp.


Glorious Uses of Sustainability Reports: How a Company’s Report Can Influence Its Messages

PR practitioners can easily use sustainability reports to communicate the value and benefits of their client’s sustainability initiatives. Reports provide statistics, benchmarking and opportunities to set and achieve goals.

Sustainability reports are full of wonderful data and statistics. These numbers provide practitioners with current data and allow for comparative analysis. This information lends itself to messaging full of concrete data.

Equipped with solid facts, PR practitioners can create press releases, factsheets, backgrounders and position papers that impact audiences and provide journalists with valuable information for their coverage.

Another major benefit of sustainability reports is that they provide benchmarking numbers. Benchmarking is when a company compares its practices and policies to those of the highest performing companies in the industry to which the companies belong. This is often done when a company wants to improve its outcome.

Benchmarking can help a company understand that certain areas within its operations may contain room for improvement. The benchmarking can help a practitioner create messaging that contains comparative data and also provide the opportunity to convey a need for improvement to stakeholders who may be doubting investments or initiates.

Opportunities to improve lead a company to opportunities to set and achieve goals for its future. Once a company knows where it stands and where leading companies within the industry stand, attainable goals become more visible.

These goals are good news for PR practitioners because it provides them with a milestone to brag about. The combination of concrete facts, benchmarking statistics and achieved goals creates a reasonably solid and interesting story for a journalist. If a PR practitioner is familiar with his or her client’s sustainability report, then providing journalists with all of the components of that great story is easy and helps them cover your story.

It has been said by many of my professors that helping journalists in such a way is beneficial to the relationship between those journalists and a PR practitioner. I would think you might as well take advantage of that opportunity, and the coverage would be nice too.

Below is a video in which AT&T discusses its sustainability report. It is a great example of how statistics gained through sustainability reporting can be used to convey the need for benefits of and returns on investments from sustainable initiates and practices within a company.


How to Strategically Choose the Right Promotional Merchandise

Spring is on its way! And with it comes many opportunities for face to face contact with consumers at festivals and expos. Events such as Earth day, Arts and Music festivals and every other festival or expo is an opportunity to target a specific demographic that a company may want to reach. If done well, festivals or expos create an opportunity to gain new consumers.

To make these face to face interactions valuable promotional items are good to have at the events. If valuable, promotional items put a company’s brand in the perfect position to encourage word of mouth advertising. A company with sustainability integrated into its business practices should consider promotional items that best align with its organizational goals.

For instance, many companies have begun giving reusable bags or water bottles as promotional items. You may not be able to get a student to wear a 7Eleven shirt to class, but if you give them a coffee mug, they are a walking advertisement for 7Eleven coffee every time they take it to class or to study in the library. It also can prompt a conversation started by a question such as, “Oh, 7Eleven huh? Do they actually have good coffee?

When I am not at school studying strategic communication or sustainability, I am usually being a brand ambassador a promotional event (a job I thankfully stumbled upon). My experience with this extremely fun job has shown me which promotional items work and which ones don’t work as well.

It has been my experience that items which hold true value, such as water bottles, travel mugs, reusable bags, flash drives, and “get one free” coupons are good at encouraging conversations about the brand printed on them. Another benefit of these products is their ability to encourage behavioral change.

For instance if a company integrates sustainability in their business model, a quality reusable water bottle or travel coffee mug is actually a great item to add to the marketing budget. Not only does this allow the brand to go wherever the item is carried, but it helps the person begin to take sustainable steps on their own.

Enabling the consumer to independently feel the benefits of sustainability will help him or her understand the importance of choosing a company that integrates sustainability into its business. There are multiple options for sustainable promotional items. Green Promotional Items has an online catalog with very cool items for companies to consider.

If the ones your company chooses are valuable, they will help the consumer spread word of your brand and they can improve customer loyalty by highlighting a shared passion. And of course it’s wonderful to help encourage behavioral change by making sustainable choices easier for consumers to make.

Targeting techies?

Targeting techies?

Travel bottles can appeal to consumers from multiple target audiences.

Travel bottles can appeal to consumers from multiple target audiences.

Want to appeal to an athletic demographic?

Want to appeal to an athletic demographic?


Certification and Credibility

I’ve been writing about green messaging and companies that do it well and a few that aren’t as good at it. After comparing them, I have come to realize a key component to those which do a good job.

Credibility is a key factor for an audience’s decision about whether a company succeeds at green messaging. And it should be; in sustainable messaging, actions speak louder than words.

Credibility is gained by implanting socially sustainable business practices, integrating sustainability into operational functions and doing business in an economically responsible manner.  Another way for a company to gain credibility is to gain certification from accredited sources.

Each industry has its own accredited sources and different aspects within the industry in which to receive certification. For instance, a clothing company could have the opportunity to receive the following certification

These are only a few examples, there are many other accredited certifications and many universities also have certification programs. The number of certifications can be overwhelming, but with the right amount of time devoted to finding certification, a business can find the right ones.

In an interview for Green Business Certification, Elissa Loughman Patagonia Corporate Environmental Speacialist discusses Patagonia’s integration of sustainability and certifications. (Loughman’s interview is at 00:06:25)

With just a little bit of research, a company can find multiple accredited certifications to achieve. While learning about the certification, the company learns how to integrate sustainability in almost every aspect of business.

The certification also teaches the company how to measure and report on its ROI from its sustainable initiatives. Including its certification (where the company can improve and where it excelled) in its messages is a great way to generate genuine and credible sustainability message content.


Two Brands that talk and walk sustainability and are criticized for it.

Last week I talked about how fear of green wash labeling can deter brands from talking about their sustainability initiatives. This week I will highlight two brands that brave the nay-Sayers and talk about their good doing.

Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola doesn’t just talk the talk; it has integrated sustainable practices into its business practices at multiple levels. To begin, Coke has minimized its use of PET plastic by 23% and has focused on striving for a closed loop supply chain, meaning they reuse plastic bottles when sourcing plastic for the new bottles.

Coke has also proudly talked about its efforts and encourages its consumers to recycle. This both contributes to Coke’s mission of closed loop supply chain and to society’s need to more properly manage trash. Coke has footprints at events, such as NASCAR, state fairs and other major events.

Even though Coke’s efforts are notable, there are still people that say it is greenwashing. In 2007 Coke was named as the Polaris Institute’s first Corporate Greenwashing Award recipient. Also people say that because parts of Cokes operations are not sustainable that they are greenwashing.

In my opinion, Coke is not exaggerating what they are trying to do and are making an effort to integrate sustainability where possible and are thus not greenwashing. At least it is attempting to tackle its overuse of resources, Coke should talk about it, because every little bit counts and it is contributing to a more conscious consumer.

Tom’s Shoes

Tom’s is responsible for the one:one business model. For every pair of shoes consumers buy, Tom’s donates a pair of shoes to someone in need. After the success of its shoes, Tom’s introduces glasses into its product offering, so now consumers can purchase eyeglasses and the matched funds will either provide glasses or eye care for someone in need.

Tom’s, like coke, pridefully discusses its business model and the benefits of purchasing Tom’s shoes over another brand of shoe. Tom’s has won multiple awards including placing sixth on FastCompany’s list of Top Ten Most Innovative Retail Companies and in 2009 Tom’s was named People’s Design Award recipient for its innovative business model.

Even Tom’s has its critics as EcoSalon typifies in its article about the good and the bad of Tom’s shoes. EcoSalon is not alone in criticizing Tom’s efforts, if one Googles Tom’s and greenwashing there are a number of bloggers articulating their displeasure with Tom’s efforts.

There will always be people hoping for brands to fail and attempting to be whistle blowers for sustainability. In using a proactive sustainable messaging plan that focuses on initiatives with real impact and integrates messages about sustainable business practices, brands will produce messages that encourage conscious consumers to look into the brand and find out for themselves.