This Critical Process exercise is a case study for nonprofit public relations; it involves the process of persuading citizens to make a minor personal investment of time and energy for the good of the community.
As the new environmental coordinator for the make-believe city of Murphystown (pop. 100,000), your duty is to get the citizens to reduce, reuse, and recycle their household garbage. More than six months ago, a citywide curbside recycling program went into effect. Each household received plastic bins for separating its paper, metal, glass, and plastic products. Pickup is every two weeks, on the same day as weekly garbage collections. But many citizens of Murphystown either are not recycling or are forgetting to put out their recycling bins on time and are then later overloading the containers. Others are incorrectly sorting their recyclables, while still others are putting nonrecyclable waste into their bins. Moreover, few citizens are composting yard waste such as leaves and grass clippings, and many are still putting those items into their garbage cans, a practice that is now illegal. So after six months, the new recycling program has been deemed a failure, and you have been hired with the unenviable task of fixing the situation. A survey indicates that Murphystowners are accustomed to a throwaway convenience culture, and they think recycling and composting are too time-consuming, with little benefit for them.
The recycling program needs to be a success. The program will extend the life of the city’s landfill from twenty to seventy years, and it will also provide (through the sale of bulk recycled garbage) an important revenue source for the operation of the city’s environmental management system. Your job success depends on your ability to turn the program around. The city’s mayor has privately demanded that you dramatically improve the citizen participation rate in the program in a year, or you’ll be fired.
- Identify all of the public relations problems in this scenario. Who are all the “publics” you need to consider? How will you communicate with them?
- Discuss your public relations strategy and campaign. Your solutions should shun top-down administrative edicts and, instead, encourage open, democratic communication and creative participation. How will you frame your strategies and messages to do this? How will you get all residents of the entire city of Murphystown to make a personal investment in energy and time for a long-term plan in which they may not see immediate tangible benefits?
- Consider not only the message but the entire organizational process. Are there things you could do to change the entire recycling process that might create higher participation rates and improved performance? How will you find out which parts of the process to improve?