Dear PR Guy,
I’m in a jam. How can I communicate the need for sustainable practices that protect the environment while saving people money when oil is practically free these days by historic standards?
Worried in Wichita
First off, STOP TALKING ABOUT HOW THE POINT OF ACTING SUSTAINABLY IS ALL ABOUT SAVING MONEY!!! Sorry. Had to get that out. Deep breath.
OK, so there’s a saying in Kentucky: “You can’t hang your hat on a cat’s tail.” Or maybe that was from Dazed and Confused. Either way, the point is that while the good old days of cripplingly high energy prices and global economic meltdown are sure to come back, those of us in the sustainability business (i.e., all of us) need to take this time of (relatively) low prices and (moderate) economic stability to rethink what it is we’re actually trying to encourage people to do.
Which is NOT to save, or make, money. Sustainability is all about recognizing the downstream impacts of virtually every decision we make from the time we wake up in the morning to the time we go to bed. The real question we want to be asking is, How do we design our communities and live our lives in ways that give future generations a fighting chance of inhabiting more or less the same planet we all grew up on?
The PR Guy has the good fortune of working with clients who recognize that some of the sustainable decisions we make today will cost us less money than we’d otherwise spend, and some will cost more. Regardless, there shouldn’t be any daylight between promoting your sustainability work and communicating your core messages.
Organizations poised for long term success know the difference between the cost of a one-off feel-good program and a true and lasting organizational investment. The former can get you some good press and happy tweets. But the latter is all about developing sustainable initiatives and nurturing sustainable practices that align with you and your members’ values, are driven by your unique areas of potential impact, and have a demonstrable, enduring, positive effect on the lives of people and our planet.
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