CAMPAIGNS: CA launches new gift guide lauding recycled products

PR Team: California Department of Conservation (Sacramento, CA) and Riester-Robb PR (Venice, CA) Campaign: Green Holiday Guide Time Frame: October 2002 - December 2002 Budget: $35,000

PR Team: California Department of Conservation (Sacramento, CA) and Riester-Robb PR (Venice, CA) Campaign: Green Holiday Guide Time Frame: October 2002 - December 2002 Budget: $35,000

Recycling has become commonplace in the US, particularly in California. It's second nature to people, as the sight of recycling cans next to trash cans throughout California reveals. But that's merely the beginning. The California Department of Conservation (DoC) is charged with running the state's recycling programs. And department director Darryl Young finds that people don't go as far as they could when it comes to recycling. "We conducted a series of focus groups, and we found that while people may recycle, they don't tend to buy items made from recycled materials," says Young. "People don't always associate products that are made from recycled materials as being good. But recycled doesn't mean bad. Buying products made from recycled materials is better for the environment and better for you." Strategy Young needed a way to show the quality of the products made from recycled materials. Working with Riester-Robb PR, the DoC wanted to find a way to champion such products at a time of year when consumers are a little more likely to open their wallets. "The holidays are obviously a huge time for consumers to purchase products," says Dave Reiseman, SAE with Riester-Robb. "We saw this as an opportunity to close the loop on recycling by promoting products made from recycled materials, and promote those companies that make them. By focusing on these products, it gave us a great visual to educate the consumer about the quality of these products." Tactics The DoC created the Green Holiday Guide, a catalog chock full of items made from recycled materials, including blankets, candle holders, vases, pillows, jackets, pet toys, kayaks, wind chimes, and tractor stools. Featured companies included Birkenstock and PETsMART. The DoC and Riester-Robb sent the 24-page full-color guide to local print and broadcast media. But they also sent it to national media outlets such as CNN. But the key to attracting media attention was to send along items from the catalog. "We sent along socks and dog toys made from recycled material," says Reiseman. "A dog toy made from recycled bottles speaks a thousand words. It's a great visual to show them a kayak made from recycled material, or seeing Al Roker sitting in a chair made from recycled milk jugs. But we didn't want to just raise awareness of the products. We also wanted to raise awareness of the companies that made them." In addition to pitching the gift guide to the news media, Riester-Robb also sent the guide and various recycled gifts to fashion, home and garden, and environmental publications. Results Getting the products in front of reporters and editors worked wonders. CNN ran four stories on the gift guide and its products. The guide was also featured on MSNBC, the Today show, in the New York Post, the Denver Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and news shows across California, from Sacramento down to San Diego. And all of the news coverage featured the department's website,, where consumers could learn more about the gift guide. In September, 68,330 people visited the site. By December, nearly 219,000 unique monthly visitors were coming to the site. "The guide offered interesting alternatives to the gifts out there," explains Young. "It really cut through all the clutter, by saying these are gifts that aren't expensive, and by giving such a gift, you're actually giving two - one to a person, and another to the environment. Segment producers get bombarded with pitches during the holidays, with information about everything from hi-tech gadgets to snowmobiles. I think we got through the message that the power of the dollar can be used for greater good." Future The campaign was such a success in terms of media coverage and consumer interest, says Reiseman, that not only does the department plan to launch another gift guide for the 2003 holiday season, it is looking into making the guide available year-round.

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