Reality television gives the waste business a human face

On any given day there are 2 million blog posts, 2.5 million tweets, and 2.7 billion Facebook likes. What those figures mean for us as communicators is that there is a lot of noise and we have to be creative to get our messages through the clutter.

On any given day there are 2 million blog posts, 2.5 million tweets, and 2.7 billion Facebook likes. What those figures mean for us as communicators is that there is a lot of noise and we have to be creative to get our messages through the clutter.

At Waste Management, we have embraced an unusual tactic that has enabled us to build on our social media efforts and effectively break through all the chatter and reach a larger audience: reality television. Our participation in Bravo's Project Runway, CBS' Undercover Boss, and AMC's The Pitch provided opportunities to generate compelling content to tell our corporate story.

There's still value in traditional methods, but reality TV afforded us the opportunity to bring our work, relationships with customers, and corporate growth story to life on a greater scale.

Video content is a powerful tool in engaging with audiences and demand for "behind-the-scenes" corporate access has never been higher. In Project Runway, viewers saw how to make high fashion from recyclable materials, teaching the value of recycling.

In the first episode of Undercover Boss, we told real-life stories of our employees and their everyday interactions with customers. Our recent participation in The Pitch highlighted our environmental solutions-oriented approach to working with customers.

Following our involvement with the shows, we received contact from people who wanted to become employees, customers who are happy they do business with us, and even requests from new customers wanting to do business with us.

Importantly, traditional tactics didn't - and can't - go unused. They helped amplify the stories told in the shows. For example, we auctioned the Project Runway dresses to help local charities. We used Twitter to generate engagement from employees and customers around The Pitch. With Undercover Boss, we cross-marketed by including collateral in customer bills to help increase the number of viewers for the network.

Underscoring all these tactics is the critical objective of driving returns across our business and protecting our reputation in an environment where there is always skepticism. When you can transform your company to a place where the provider of a service now has a human face, it helps employees and customers alike feel appreciated, recognized, and connected.

Lynn Brown is VP of corporate communications at Waste Management.

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