Blog written by Liz Pope

Waste Management (WM), a U.S. waste disposal company, found itself teetering on the edge of the disaster as media outlets described  it as “the nation’s largest polluter”. In an effort to cleanse its grimy reputation, the company spent $25 to $30 million a year for the last three years to fund television and print advertisements.

At the time, WM was heading in the right direction by responding to the public and realizing it needed to change its dirty image. Nonetheless, WM spent millions on paper and ink that would later be thrown away. Best case scenario: Every newspaper that WM printed an ad in was recycled. Worst case scenario: WM spent time and money emptying trash receptacles brimming with newspapers in which its ad was printed.

What would a public relations professional do? Think creatively. Public relations goes beyond the realm of advertising and ink on paper that is paid for in advance per square inch. Thinking creatively might involve advising WM to invest its millions into a partnership or co-sponsorship with national environmental non-profits or to join in on the governor’s tree-planting campaign.

The public doesn’t want to hear that a company is “going green” from a paid advertisement that offers little credibility, they want to see actual proof or a service performed. In fact, by using PR, WM might have saved its millions AND received third-party endorsed media recognition by reporters interested in the company’s green efforts.