Client:City of Atlanta
Client:City of Atlanta
PR Team: Atlanta Environmental Communications
Campaign: Atlanta Stream Cleanup Public Awareness and Education
Time Frame: January 1999 to present
Budget: dollars 350,000
Known for its trees, traffic and air pollution, Atlanta faced a new
challenge in 1998 when the federal government ordered a city cleanup of
urban streams. Trickling through backyards and neighborhood parks, the
waterways contained decades worth of used tires, appliances, clothes and
every other kind of human trash imaginable.
Responding to a negotiated consent decree with the US Environmental
Protection Agency and other agencies and groups, the city began a
one-year, dollars 5-million stream cleanup in October 1998, with a
required PR component.
’We were mandated to retrieve all litter larger than a cigarette butt
from 37 miles of city streams,’ says Marilyn Johnson, public information
manager for the city’s Division of Wastewater Services. ’We also had to
find a way to help people understand the enormity of the problem.’ To
convey that message, Johnson retained Atlanta Environmental
Communications, a PR firm that specializes in environmental issues.
’Our biggest challenge was to change human behavior, and we didn’t have
much planning time,’ says Theresa Walker, vice president of Atlanta
Environmental Communications, which began work in January 1999 and
introduced the campaign in mid-February.
The objectives were clear: educate the next generation of environmental
stewards and empower citizens to control litter and stop dumping waste
in city waters.
Mayor Bill Campbell launched the Stream Cleanup Public Awareness and
Education Campaign on Feb. 15, 1999, proclaiming the program’s theme,
’When litter is dropped it doesn’t stop. It ends up in our streams.’ He
also introduced Captain Clean Stream, a six-foot, big-bellied, huggable
raccoon sporting a police captain hat on his head and an official badge
on his chest. To be sure children would like the captain, a panel of
5-to-10-year-olds provided input on his appearance.
Atlanta Environment produced 60- and 30-second television PSAs, which
included a commissioned jingle. It maintained aggressive media relations
while coordinating community education events and school presentations
that included an environmental activity book.
’We’ve provided spokespeople for every radio and television public
affairs show in the city,’ says Walker. Between February and May 1999,
publicity included 41 placements reaching 1,327,753 readers, 2,597,250
television viewers and 537,600 radio listeners.
Community events reached 248,635 people. Captain Clean Stream visited
1,470 students in 36 classes at seven schools. Cable giant Media One is
running PSAs on all cable programming in eight metro counties.
New corporate support will continue the campaign as it moves from city
jurisdiction to a non-profit umbrella organization with citizen advisory
Walker notes the next phase will continue public education and place
signs where people dump. ’We want to be in your face, telling them
’don’t litter, don’t dump,’ she says.