How Free Beer Leads to Sustainable Employee Engagement
This post was featured in Forbes.com.
A single work week might not seem like the kind of timeframe required to make a huge impact. But that’s all it took for Integrate PR to run an electronics recycling drive that responsibly recycled 2,617 pounds of electronic waste. So how did a tiny Houston-based PR firm manage to recycle over a ton of electronics responsibly using only 40 man-hours?
First and foremost, Integrate’s success highlights the importance of employee engagement. A new employee was amazed that Integrate didn’t recycle and quickly took matters into her own hands, raising a hue and a cry, inspiring Integrate PR to exercise greater responsibility when it comes to curtailing waste. When the time came to give back to the community, it was a no brainer. Electronics recycling “seemed like a great service to offer the companies in the building, but also the surrounding community,” said Allie Herzog Danziger of Integrate PR.
One problem the company immediately encountered was that its people don't always know what counts as a “recyclable electronic device.” Sure, people know about computers, MP3s players, tablets and cellphones. But rarely do they think about less exotic devices like hair dryers. “We needed to to explain that basically everything with a wire needs to be recycled,” said Danziger. No small task to communicate to the public. So how did they do it?
Social media helped but came with its own challenges. After all, it’s hard to list everything that can be recycled in 160 characters. Rather than limiting itself to Twitter, Integrate PR partnered with local green electronics recycling business Compucycle to get the message out via longer blog posts, and they connected with other local businesses looking to recycle their own electronics responsibly and engage the broader Houston community in doing so. Operating on the principle that “a picture speaks 1,000 words,” the joint effort used photographs to communicate the myriad items that need to be recycled responsibly.
In 2012, many firms might ignore traditional media in favor of social media. Not Integrate PR and not for its recycling drive; the company worked with local media outlets. No stories were run, but the company did get on event calendars. This hit a key demographic that would have been missed by social media, a demo that is probably not aware it needs to recycle electronic waste responsibly in the first place: seniors. Employees even went above and beyond most corporate volunteer programs programs and pounded pavement to get the word out on college campuses, another perfect place for finding recyclable electronics. In a mix of old and new, Integrate PR reached out to renters by acquiring email addresses from landlords and property managers and conducting a direct email marketing campaign.
Brewskis help save the planet
One interesting and unique way that Integrate PR connected with its community was by partnering with a local brewery. The incentive? For every piece of recyclable electronics someone brought down on the day of the drive, the donor received a free beer. At a cost of nothing to Integrate PR, the community was engaged with an incentive that just about anyone can enjoy. And never doubt the marketing potential of free beer in getting the word out.
Of course none of this would have been possible without engaged employees. At least one employee has a passion for recycling. What of the other seven? This helps: Integrate PR permits every employee who works past 6 p.m. to arrive half an hour later for every hour worked past six - and time spent on company-approved volunteerism counts in the same way as time spent on regular work.
That 40 dedicated hours for this effort was divided over a team of eight. This means that each employee only had to pitch in five hours of their time to net the results of over a ton of electronic waste. Integrate PR was able to do a lot in a little bit of time using time-tested techniques (direct mailing and flyering), educating the public about the benefits of recycling and the usual social media blitz, all in the service of effective corporate philanthropy.
And, of course, as Danziger says “free beer doesn’t hurt.”
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