CVP Blog - May 2010

Campaign planning 101: Questions to ask BEFORE you begin planning

Everyone knows (or should know) that effective education campaigns need proper planning. But have you ever considered the questions that need to be asked even before you begin planning? Yes, that’s right. Good campaign planners have a set of questions they consider before the major campaign planning gets underway.  This helps ensure  your campaign addresses your real needs and takes into account the kinds of things education can and cannot control.

Here are some pre-planning questions to consider:

Will you be able to deal with operational increases/changes if your education campaign is actually successful?

Do you have enough recycling bins or carts if there is a sudden increase in demand?

Can your Web site handle a spike in traffic or will it crash under pressure?

Is your customer service staff capable of handling an influx of callers? Do you need to hire more staff?

If you contract with an outside hauler, are they prepared for the potentially significant increase in set outs and/or tonnage?

How much time and resources can you dedicate to this campaign?

Do you have enough staff and do they have time to dedicate?

Is your education budget already maxed out?

Do you have access to volunteers that can support certain aspects of the campaign?

Do you have enough time and resources available to launch and conduct a thorough campaign?

Is your community experiencing rampant budget cuts? You may want to hold off on any campaign until you can be sure it will fit comfortably into your budget.

Is your recycling program planning any operational changes that could impact the education campaign?

Is your program switching to a new program soon, such as single stream that will require a whole new set of messages for the public?

What target audience do you need to reach?

This is VERY important. Why waste time and resources trying to reach people who either already recycle or who will never recycle? Think about reaching out to the people in your community who just need a little extra push to recycle (in other words, the lowest hanging fruit).

Thinking through these questions before one dollar is spent on your campaign will help you maximize your time and budget when you enter into the real planning stage of your campaign.

We want to hear from you! Does your community ask a different set of pre-planning questions or have one to add? Comment below or e-mail us at

Crafting pro-environment messages

We all know that communicating the benefits of recycling can be a bit challenging. And even more so when you’re trying to convince non-recyclers to start recycling. Some messages definitely are more effective than others at encouraging positive behaviors. (There is a whole branch of marketing dedicated to this called social marketing), but very few people evaluate which messages actually work.

The American Psychological Association’s journal, Monitor on Psychology, covered this subject a few years ago and we decided to dig it out of our archives and re-circulate it to our readers, as a reminder. The article states that much of the “save the environment” messaging used today and for the past 30 years is not effective. In fact, messaging that portrays a negative behavior, like littering, as something that everyone is doing, may actually encourage people to litter because it is portrayed as socially acceptable (“everyone else is doing it, so I guess it’s okay for me to do it too.”)

Instead, behavioral psychology experts suggest we use social norm message (such as “most people in your neighborhood are already recycling, so do your part” or “Join your neighborhood in doing the right thing”) to reinforce that recycling is the normal thing to do.  Or, to put it another way, recycling is the norm and NOT recycling is the odd behavior.

Here’s a link to the full article.

Old Messages…                                               New messages…
Recycle – It’s the right thing to do.                 Recycle – Everybody’s doing it!

Recycling is easier than it looks.                   You don’t recycle? You gotta be 

Start a trend: Recycle!                                      Join the party: Recycle!

Landfills are filling up with recyclables.        Your neighbors are recycling – 
                                                                              why aren’t you?

Recycling is so easy, it’s silly not to!             Recycling will preserve our community 
                                                                              for the next generation.

Also, for a great tutorial on Social Marketing (basically, the science of persuasion) check out this presentation. It describes “Georgia’s You Gotta Be Kidding!” campaign and the social marketing theory behind it. The campaign portrays not-recycling as outside the norm. Check out for more information.

We want to hear from you! What examples are out there of the “right” and the “wrong” messages to use in recycling education? Or any type of education (litter prevention) for that matter? Comment below or e-mail us at


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