'The media is telling us not to send things': How LaForce has changed its swag policy

Environmental concerns have led the agency to change its ways.

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Gone are the days of the mass deliveries or sending products to magazines and various editors so they get something to unbox.

As consumers’ environmental concerns have ramped up in recent years, states have started banning plastic bags and brands have done their part by trading in plastic straws for reusable metal ones. Some fast-food chains have also started eliminating toys from their kids’ meals.

But now the spotlight is on PR firms. Several fashion editors are urging PR firms to rethink gifting this holiday season for environmental reasons.

LaForce is one agency that has changed its policy in recent years on what it sends to editors. PRWeek sat down with the firm’s SVP Olita Mills to find out more.

Are you seeing environmental concerns driving agencies to give fewer gifts or send less swag?
We work with a lot of fashion brands, but also CPG and product-based clients, whether it is food or clothing. There is a level of wanting people to touch, taste and see them. But across the board, even for holiday season or day-to-day, we have had to rethink our entire approach. Not only is the media telling us not to send things, but our brands and we internally are saying this is a waste.

How have you changed your approach to this?
We don’t gift editors. But when it comes to our work and how we are getting products to editors, we have rethought our entire approach from packaging and the way we deliver. We are strategic with who is getting things. Gone are the days of the mass deliveries or sending products to magazines and various editors so they get something to unbox. We reach editors covering certain things prior, asking if this is something they need or want to receive in order to cover it. A lot of times people will say "no." If that is the case, we won’t give it to them.

We make sure when we do send things, that we use sustainable packaging, not inserting extra things like note cards. Anything we can do to reduce waste is being considered. It is not only something we are recommending to our brands, but our brands are also demanding it of us. That is a big shift in how things have been over the years.

Even when we are lending a sample, we are conscious about how it is getting to the publication or outlet. We have a full-scale operational facility here that makes sure things are being grouped and held so not just one little shopping bag is going out. Years ago, you never really thought about that. If someone needed a sample, you just messengered the bag. Obviously, we don’t want to miss deadlines, so if we have to walk it over, we can do that. 

When did you rethink your approach to this?

goodwill logo
goodwill logo
Within the last three years, it is something that has risen to the top in terms of finding ways to implement various things throughout the agency. There has been actual protocol issued. So not only is it in our delivery of product and packages, it is ensuring that when we do have to give something to an editor, they know that it can be re-gifted, reused or donated to charity. We have programs with the brands. We also house a lot of product here. We donate things to charities like Housing Works and Goodwill so things don’t just go to waste or get thrown away. All of our subscriptions are digital too. There is a level of publications that we do still subscribe to. But we are conscious of having a library and we are trying to share everything more than ever before. It extends in all different areas of how we do business.

I know brands are rethinking it in a major way and how they are informing their agencies to do it. So now we are giving that education back for those that haven’t thought about it in the way we know the industry is and especially the media is.

Any further comments?
We have invested more in photography and content. Own teams have more networks of photographers. We want to make sure we give people the digital representation of the products they can feature, versus having to receive the sample.

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