Best Practices for Creating Effective Promo & Education Material  

Are you seeking some quick and easy tips for creating municipal recycling promotion and education (P&E)? Here’s a handful of ideas to keep in mind as you exercise your creative side. 

Remember the tips by the acronym “ASSETS”.  It fits the tips and recognizes your P&E items are “assets” for your solid waste recycling program.   

A– Audience - Are you talking to me? 

Who exactly is your target audience? If you’re trying to boost recovery of women’s toiletry product containers, the tone and colour of your ads will be most effective if they appeal to women. If you’re focused on car cleaning containers, men may be the focus of your target audience. Check out this link to a study that suggests women are more actively engaged in household-oriented pro-environment behaviours such as recycling, than men*.  What other information should you use to consider your audience? Think about the differences in how various age demographics access information.
*Cross-National Gender Variation in Environmental Behaviors; SOCIAL SCIENCE QUARTERLY, Volume 85, Number 3, September 2004 by the Southwestern Social Science Association 

– Show me! 

The ideal way for us to help residents absorb information is to combine just a few words with pictures*. This engages both parts of our brain to process information, and improves comprehension*.  You’ll want to make sure that the pictures of materials clearly convey the types of bottles and containers you want to recover and the closer they look to the real thing, the better. Plus it helps to have a little red on the page to draw the eye in.
* Story Power! Brain-Friendly Content through Visuals and Storytelling: Rainer Falle re reference to Kathy Sierra: noted author of best-selling books on computers; also search Mayer, 1989b, Mayer and Gallini, 1990; Mayer, Bove, and others, 1996)  

S – Say it clearly! 

Clear language is as important as great images. Craft a catchy headline with an active verb, then add a little copy with as few words as possible. Use three or four bullets to display information with plain, resident-friendly language; avoid industry terminology that your residents probably won’t understand. Steer clear of words that suggest a nuance in English that might not be understood by residents whose first language isn’t English. And finally, add a ‘call to action’ to tell people what you want them to do.   

E – Everywhere! 

Effective P&E isn’t about a single brochure or poster. It’s about seeing the same message in a number of locations – a direct-to-door information flyer; an ad in a local magazine or newspaper (i.e. paid media); a photo opp (i.e. “earned” media including news releases and radio station interviews); a digital ad, your website, etc.  Your target audience will “see” and remember your message more with frequent exposure. It’s also ok to repeat a campaign a few months down the road or the following year.  

T – “Thank you” helps

People like to know that their efforts are appreciated, so say “thanks” then encourage them to recycle even more.   

S – Success 

Many programs measure performance against objectives to assess results and plan for future P&E. You can  compare recovery rates during similar periods year over year but, you’ll need to take into consideration decreases in material weights by light-weighting. You can also measure resident reaction to ads and campaigns using panels of resident volunteers to provide feedback through online polls or surveys.   

When all else fails, get your creative flowing by scanning magazines, newspapers and digital ads to see how the experts use images, pictures and words to tell their stories.