By Sarah Bartlett, Account Director at Storm Communications
Barely a day goes by in the Storm office where we don’t pick up a story or three in the news about the damaging effects of single-use plastics on the environment – more often than not from packaging.
According to a survey we conducted for our client Pro Carton at the end of 2018, 74% of European consumers have been influenced by press coverage on packaging waste. It’s clearly up to brands and organisations to harness this demand.
In turn, in the last few years, many brands have increased the focus on their environmental credentials as part of their media relations messaging. However, the challenge is to secure cut-through against the swathes of others doing the same. When eco-friendly packaging becomes a ‘hygiene factor’ i.e. without it, consumers and other businesses are turned off, how to do you differentiate yourself and get that all-important press coverage?
It’s first and foremost important that whatever is being said to the media is both authentic and truthful. ‘Greenwashing’ – using public relations to deceive others into thinking that your products, aims or brand are environmentally friendly – will inevitably be exposed by competitors looking to steal a march, and press looking for an inside story. If your business is reducing its use of plastic packaging or switching to recycled materials, make it known, but be aware that there will be scrutiny of your claims and that you must back up your words with genuine action in order to avoid a crisis management situation.
World Environment Day (7 June) is on the horizon, and it pays to be aware of national and international events like these as journalists look for spokespeople for written articles and broadcast interviews. Positioning individuals from your brand as experts is increasingly difficult because of the number of people vying for media attention, but the best approach is to agree your key messages internally, and contact key press ahead of time with your take on the issues that are most relevant to your aims.
Indeed, ensuring you stay up to date with the latest environmental news can present multiple opportunities to speak to your key audiences. Be alert beyond the evening news and morning papers too – the best place to find breaking stories is your social media feed. And, even if the media doesn’t cover your story, your own social accounts are a guaranteed way to push your agenda and join conversations with the stakeholders that really matter to you – be that your customers, policy decision makers or the general public. But again, avoid the greenwash as social media allows anyone to hold you accountable for your actions.
With all this said, it’s worth remembering that not everyone holds environmental crisis in the same regard; money still talks. Cracking coverage in financial and trade press takes more than just an announcement about packaging switches for the good of the planet (isn’t everyone doing that?). What is the impact on the economy? Here, surveys of businesses and consumers can be impactful: how much, if anything, will they pay for eco-friendly packaging? How will it affect their bottom line if they make a switch themselves?
Ultimately, there is plenty more to be said on the packaging waste debate, as the issue is far from resolved. The opportunities to highlight your brand’s position are out there – just make sure they don’t go to waste.