Christine Pietryla Wetzler

Owner, Pietryla PR & Marketing

PR Consultant

Fractional CMO

Featured Writer

Christine Pietryla Wetzler

Owner, Pietryla PR & Marketing

PR Consultant

Fractional CMO

Featured Writer

New Post

Addressing Misinformation in the Packaging Industry About Paper and Plastic: The Role of Proactive PR

Addressing Misinformation in the Packaging Industry About Paper and Plastic: The Role of Proactive PR

Addressing Misinformation in the Packaging Industry About Paper and Plastic: The Role of Proactive PR

Packaging is essential for product safety, but its environmental impact is a concern. Consumers often prefer paper packaging due to its perceived natural and recyclable qualities. However, paper packaging has drawbacks, such as deforestation and energy consumption. It’s important to consider all of the alternatives when your goal is to minimize environmental impact. 

The confusion surrounding this issue has created the perfect environment for misinformation. Proactive PR is crucial for the packaging industry in addressing confusion and misinformation. By engaging with stakeholders and providing accurate information, PR efforts can shape public opinion and mitigate the harmful effects of misinformation.

Consumers often need help choosing between paper and plastic packaging, as both options have advantages and disadvantages. However, when faced with this decision, many individuals tend to gravitate toward paper packaging even though there might be more sustainable choices in some cases. 

But this article isn’t about the debate regarding different packaging materials. We want to examine how confusion and misinformation have confused consumers and what can be done about it. It can be challenging for marketing teams to gauge when to jump into a passionate debate. Doing it incorrectly can backfire so quickly that it feels like doing nothing is the best action.

Identifying the Root of Misinformation in Packaging

Limited or biased information sources, emotional influences, cognitive biases, simplified messaging, social influence, lack of scientific literacy, and overreliance on branding and marketing all contribute to this confusion. 

Misinformation or incorrect information distorts consumer perceptions by presenting simplified or exaggerated messaging, tapping into emotions, and spreading through social circles. Proactive PR efforts and educational campaigns provide offense and defense strategies to control runaway perceptions.

Many communications campaigns over the years have contributed to shaping public perception by highlighting the environmental concerns associated with plastic, specifically its impact on waste management, pollution, and wildlife. They have increased awareness, driven behavioral changes, and influenced the development of regulations and industry practices to address plastic pollution. When you ask those with the most passionate opinions, one or more of these campaigns often come up.

In 1971, a Keep America Beautiful campaign featured a Native American actor shedding a tear over littered landscapes, emphasizing the negative environmental impact of plastic waste. The ad’s emotional impact helped shape public perception and increase awareness about the importance of proper waste disposal. From 1991-2011 the American Plastics Council ran the “Plastics Make it Possible” campaign. Still, the messaging often faced criticism for downplaying the environmental impact of plastic waste, leading to a public perception that plastics were harmful to the environment. And more recently, plastic straws, microbeads, and microplastic debris have become part of our regular lexicon. 

So many people have heard bits and pieces of these campaigns and pair that knowledge with other bits they receive through social media or their local communities. For the average consumer, it is no wonder it’s confusing.  

The Role of Proactive PR in Tackling Misinformation

The good news is that brands are improving at simplifying these issues for consumers. Coupled with legislation and community activities that encourage people to get more information, the platform for lousy information is getting smaller.

As a brand, how can you stay ahead of this debate and authentically communicate with your audience?  To maintain a strong brand reputation, a brand must consistently build and uphold a positive perception of itself through continuous efforts in communication, product quality, customer experience, and ethical business practices.

Transparent and honest communication with consumers is the way.

When you write copy or address sustainability in your messaging, avoid falling into the trap of greenwashing your efforts. Greenwashing refers to the deceptive practice of presenting a company, product, or initiative as more environmentally friendly or sustainable than it is, misleading consumers and obscuring the actual environmental impact.

This Reality Check 2022 study highlights public cynicism towards brands’ environmental promises, with almost half of respondents perceiving them as publicity stunts. Additionally, awareness of sustainable brand initiatives remains low, as nearly half of the participants have yet to notice efforts to promote an ethical image. 

So when crafting your messages, remember that consumers want simple truth. If they want to buy your product, aligning with your values is an excellent win but don’t forget they’re ultimately looking to buy. Don’t insult them by lying.

Consider bringing in some third-party experts. Developing educational campaigns, identifying misinformation immediately, and regularly collaborating with scientific experts and credible organizations are all tactical ways to consistently build a positive reputation.  

Best Practices for Proactive PR

Where do you start if you aren’t partnered with a great firm? Research and analysis are going to lead this effort. Understanding your target audience’s perceptions and concerns is only possible within the correct context.

You’ll want to monitor social media conversations and trends and learn from the good and bad examples of these campaigns happening daily.

A comprehensive PR strategy must set clear goals and objectives and detail key messages and narratives to bolster your position. Leveraging partnerships and engaging with industry associations and organizations will fuel your PR efforts.

Continuous evaluation and adaptation are crucial aspects of proactive PR efforts in the packaging industry. Monitoring the effectiveness of PR initiatives is essential to assess their impact on addressing misinformation and shaping public perception. By tracking key metrics, such as media coverage, social media engagement, and consumer feedback, PR professionals can gain valuable insights into the success and reach of their campaigns. This data enables them to identify what strategies resonate with the target audience and what aspects may need improvement. 

Based on the feedback and outcomes, PR strategies can be adjusted and refined to ensure maximum effectiveness. This iterative process allows for continuous learning, optimization, and the ability to stay responsive to evolving challenges and opportunities in effectively addressing misinformation in the packaging industry.

Case Studies: Successful Proactive PR Campaigns

Huhtamaki, a global packaging solutions provider, launched the “Better with Less” campaign to emphasize the benefits of plastic packaging. It highlights the lightweight nature of plastic, which reduces transportation emissions, and emphasizes its role in preventing food waste and increasing product shelf life.

Another example is from The Packaging Company, a leading provider of packaging solutions for online and brick-and-mortar businesses. It received well-deserved recognition for its innovative video marketing efforts, winning two prestigious Telly Awards. The campaign, titled TPC Stories, captivates audiences with a series of videos that spotlight customer businesses utilizing The Packaging Company’s products for their shipping needs. Featuring testimonials, the videos delve into the significance of high-quality packaging and how partnering with The Packaging Company strengthens their respective brands. 

TPC Stories not only emphasizes the vital link between packaging and customer service but also underscores the exceptional relationships forged between the company and its valued clients.

One of my favorite case studies is 3M’s State of Science Index, which attracts millions of impressions of top-tier media. This index is released every year and serves as a standard for how people perceive science. Additionally, it gives 3M an opportunity to display their knowledge and leadership in the field. The index also measures sentiments towards science, such as appreciation, popularity, interest level, and trust versus skepticism. This helps 3M understand how they can promote science in a positive way.

This corporate communications campaign is my favorite because it deviates from the often knee-jerk response to address an issue head-on and opts instead to tackle the problem’s root cause: a lack of understanding of science.

These examples demonstrate that there are initiatives and organizations that effectively emphasize the positive aspects of packaging materials and work towards finding innovative and sustainable solutions within the industry. It is important to strike a balance between acknowledging the benefits of packaging materials in specific applications while also addressing the environmental concerns consumers obviously have.

Get Skilled Help Combatting Misinformation in Packaging

If you are seeking to establish a successful communications program for your packaging company, Pietryla PR & Marketing is the trusted partner you need. With a distinguished portfolio that includes collaborations with industry leaders such as Footprint, Pregis, Accredo, Dow, and other notable packaging companies, our agency possesses the expertise and skill set necessary to deliver exceptional results.

We understand the intricacies of the packaging industry and have a proven track record in crafting effective communication strategies. Whether your objectives revolve around strategic PR campaigns, targeted media relations, compelling content creation, or impactful social media management, our seasoned team is poised to develop a tailored communications program that aligns with your precise requirements.

Don’t miss the opportunity to work with a partner that can elevate your brand’s reputation and engage key stakeholders. Contact Pietryla PR & Marketing today to embark on a journey toward communication excellence for your packaging enterprise.

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