Reaching residents during a pandemic

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Contamination levels in the blue box program have been top of mind for many municipalities. The issue has led to a variety of contract management challenges, requiring, in some cases, that contracts be renegotiated. Contamination has also been a topic of concern in the development of the impending regulation. Interestingly, the pandemic offers program operators a unique opportunity to engage with their residents about how to recycle properly.

As the pandemic drags on through these winter months, many adults and children are finding themselves continuing to work and learn at home. With more meals being consumed at home and more online shopping being delivered, the volume of recyclables residents are setting out for collection has noticeably increased. More materials and a captive audience mean now is a great time to push out messaging. While the average person is still being bombarded with well over 5,000 advertisements per day, there is compelling evidence that the pandemic is creating an environment that can be favourable for delivery of contamination abatement messaging. Studies undertaken by Stanford, Yale, Pew and others all show concerns about climate change and the environment are nearing all time highs, despite the pandemic. How do we leverage this situation to get messages out to a multi-generational audience who are focussed on home-based activities and receptive to a call for environmental accountability?


Meet people where they are… on social media

We’ve all seen the popularity of short video clips on YouTube, TikTok and other platforms. In the midst of the pandemic, the uptake of informational videos on topics related to household activities is unprecedented. Imperva reported a 17% spike in traffic on government and educational web sites during the first quarter of 2020 and Statistica reported a staggering 1,078% increase in educational downloads during the same period. Forums ranging from Instagram to Twitter are all seeing record levels of participation as we all seek to maintain some level of connectiveness with friends and community. These platforms and others like it do not require content with high production value. Short clips can be generated inexpensively in-house by staff using cell phones and uploaded with ease. Social media is also an “owned media”, meaning you are fully in control of the branding and messaging on these sites.

Source: "The Virus Changed the Way We Internet" nytimes.com

These are all potential spots to post and amplify your messaging at virtually no cost. However, if you have budget, consider buying ad space on platforms like Facebook. The cost is surprisingly low and can be targeted to your municipality. The advertising tools allow you to set a budget as high or as low as you need, and provide useful statistics on how the ad performed.


Physical print media stands out

Compliance tools, like ‘Oops Stickers’, have been around for years, but this may be the first time that many people are home and have time to pay attention to your curbside feedback. Many municipalities have renegotiated contracts to acknowledge rising contamination levels. This might be the time to ask for support from your contractor to educate residents. Similarly, the steady decline of print media over the past decade has led to an odd uptick in the read rate for flyers by householders. Putting flyers in residents’ blue boxes on what’s in and what’s out has a good chance of actually being read for the first time in a long time.


At-home learning targeted at kids and parents

Many municipalities have traditionally offered tours and classroom presentations to local school boards. Although it may now be more difficult to deliver a presentation, any content given to students has a higher chance of being seen by parents than in the past. Consider reaching out to your local board or individual teachers to offer materials for their at-home or in-class programs. Whether it’s a video or colouring sheet, there’s a good chance parents will see the material as part of their at-home learning activities.

Here’s an idea!

Ask teachers to get their students to compete for a recycling award by creating a blue box message. Formats could range from videos to artwork. After a winner is declared, the entries could be shared on the municipal social media platforms (with permission, of course).


Taking Action

Large advertising budgets aren’t necessary to have a positive impact and, despite all the terrible things that have happened over the past 12 months, a host of new opportunities have been created that will allow you to get your messaging out in new and innovative ways. For more ideas on creative approaches to contamination abatement management or for funding to try out new ideas, contact CIF staff today!

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