Every week PR firm Veritas sends out an e-mail called “Touchdowns and Fumbles” that analyzes the communications and media relations strategies employed by the principles in recent news stories.
Sometimes I agree with their calls and sometimes I disagree, but they were really off base with their recent piece on Tuesday’s Ontario e-waste recycling announcement, which they awarded a Touchdown. So off base that, on behalf of CDN, I’m awarding Veritas a Fumble:
Gerretsen’s electronics announcement cutting edge
Sometimes it’s the smallest touches that really have a big impact in communications. So it was this week at the Ontario Electronic Stewardship announcement of a new industry-led program to recycle electronic components like tub TVs, computer monitors, computer parts and printers. The stage on which Environment Minister John Gerretsen spoke was custom-designed with shelves of old electronic equipment as a backdrop, but the coolest thing was the podium. How many times have you seen the standard speaker’s podium with some organization’s logo papered onto it? Ho hum. This podium was custom-made to resemble an old 1950s TV set, with the OES logo embedded in it. That was a great visual. And as usual, Minister Gerretsen hit the communications on this program out of the park, both at the event and in several separate media interviews such as on CBC’s Metro Morning. “What it’s really all about is to make sure all electronic equipment is being dealt with in a proper and efficient manner,” he said. “It’s all a part of making the producers of the materials responsible ultimately for the reuse or recycling or reprocessing of the material at their end of life cycle. For every piece of electronic equipment we can keep out of our landfill sites, we're better for it.” Exactly. Add great B-roll for the TV networks and the announcement was another big TD.
First of all, Veritas didn’t disclose that they handled the communications and media relations for this event. Awarding a touchdown to your own work is a debatable notion, but not even disclosing the conflict lacks a certain quality.
Now, as for the communications strategy of Ontario Electronic Stewardship around the e-waste program itself, anyone in the channel knows is was a substantial fumble, and that’s being kind.
I’ve heard from many players in the channel both on and off the record that found out about the program at the last minute, mere weeks before the implementation date. And even after they caught wind of the program, they complained getting information from the OES was a long and laborious process, with many details still being ironed-out days before the April 1st launch date. Many speculated the OES lacked adequate staffing to handle the volume of inquiries.
The launch event itself was a good success for the OES, Veritas is correct in that. Because absent from the podium were any members of the IT community. No vendors. No distributors. No resellers. No one that might raise concerns about the roll-out of the program, the notice given to retailers and resellers, or to give an answer to the question “will these fees be passed on to consumers?” The answer is obviously “Yes, of course they will be.”
Isn’t it kind of odd to exclude the IT community from an event that is about the recycling of IT equipment, particularly when the industry is expected to foot the bill for the program?
It should be stated for the record that everyone I’ve spoken to in the channel is absolutely supportive of the aims of the recycling program. Combating e-waste is a necessity, building that cost into the front-end of the acquisition cycle makes sense, and customers will like knowing that at the end of the lifecycle their products will be disposed of responsibly.
But as CDN has documented, the roll-out of this program and the communication of the OES with the channel has been fumbled badly.