A CMO Show Blog Post
Lessons in PR: Tis the season of gifting sustainably
A CMO Show Blog Post
Lessons in PR: Tis the...

Three world science bodies named 2016 the year of finding local solutions to global problems. It got Isabella Rousis thinking – what does that mean for PR pros? 

Gifting season is well and truly upon us, so now is the perfect time to reflect on the types of gifts you’re giving, what they mean, and why it matters. For PR professionals, gifts are a basic stock in trade. We give stuff away all the time. But are we doing it well?

Problems with the silly season 

Think about Christmas. If you work in the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) or retail sectors, your number one objective as a PR pros is to make sure your client’s product is published in the “what to buy” sections of top-tier publications.

sustainable pr
The impending doom that is holiday shopping season for retail PR. (Image via: #iworkinpr)

So what do we often do? Our industry has a reputation for sending journalists lots of products, whether they’re relevant or not, just hoping to get the spot. Often these product placements are effectively gifts for use after publication.

Then we’ve got bona-fide gifts. Hampers, chocolates, flowers, wine. None of these things are bad, mind you. The trouble is simple scale and volume. What happens if every PR agency in Sydney or Melbourne send the editor of one magazine a gift – the pile would be insurmountable!

Sure, the food stuffs will get happily consumed. But what about all the other products? The sad fact is PR pros often overlook the question of what happens to products after they reach the intended editor or journalist.

I once worked for a beauty brand that would send a small hamper of products to selected beauty editors every couple of months. It was a way of staying in contact and making sure the brand wasn’t forgotten.

But how well does it work?

Hint: It doesn’t always end well

In a recent blog post, Sarah Wilson of I Quit Sugar fame made it very clear she doesn’t like gifts. She specifically advises PR companies via her website to “respect her desire not to clutter her life with stuff”.

On Christmas gifts she lamented, “It’s all S***. No One Wants S***.” All these products take up room in kitchen drawer and consume precious resources. She took aim at gold-plated business card clips and Goop, “Seriously… a Nymphenburg trio of porcelain wine bottle stoppers?! For $1,900?”


This is not an uncommon feeling at Christmas time. (Image via: Flydiscs)

So if Sarah Wilson is still on your gift list, I suggest you take her off quick smart! Thoughtless, meaningless gifts that waste the planet’s resources get the flick.

Getting gifts right

It is worth remembering not everyone’s a gift grinch. For some, a gift is a gesture that – if done well – conveys wonderful meaning and thoughtful intent.

It could be simply a bunch of flowers, a gift card, or fruit hamper. It depends on what type of gifts appeal to the person.

But again, positive sentiment doesn’t address the sustainability problem. Is it possible to give with meaning, and look after the planet?

Here’s some ideas

As an unashamed gift-giver, I’ve given this some thought so here’s a few ideas to help you get it right.

The first, if you’ll excuse the plug, a short case study on our client Vitamix, which makes high-powered blenders.

This year we decided it was time to deliver Christmas gifts with a difference. Gifting for us is an opportunity to say thank you to people who supported the brand in 2015, and we wanted to reflect that message in a way that was meaningful and memorable.

The result of our brainstorming was a decision to work with Sophia Kaplan, upcoming floral and plant stylist, to create a series of unique, blendable wreaths. Yes, that’s right. A beautiful wreath you can see, smell, blend, and eat!

sustainable PR
A wreath designed by the talented Sophia Kaplan, featuring kale, fennel and rosemary. Other smoothie ingredients, including lemon, turmeric, banana and nuts, were included in the gift package.











For us, it ticked all the boxes. Thoughtful, memorable, relevant to the brand, and sustainable.

Other ideas

Of course, a blendable wreath isn’t going to hit the mark for everyone. So here’s some other ideas to help you think about sustainable gifting:

1. Work with local producers and artisans: keep your environmental footprint smaller and support local communities.

2. Package gifts in recyclable or recycled materials: I once worked on a campaign for an ‘environmentally friendly’ product. We sent press releases and materials out in shiny white bags  on shiny white paper. It didn’t sit well with savvy journalists who picked up on the disconnect.

3. Plan your courier sendouts carefully: It’s not uncommon to send gifts to multiple people within the same media house, so set your lists in stone before booking couriers. Multiple trips to the same address wastes time, money, and fuel.

4. Send a useable or recyclable gift: Google is your best friend. Get searching and get creative.

5. Know your gift recipient: Like Sarah Wilson, not everyone likes gifts, so perhaps a simple phone call to a journalist or a quick email is enough to let them know you’re thinking of them. Even an e-card, with some well-crafted Christmas humour, goes a long way.

6. Give back, thoughtfully: And what to do with your old product that you were thinking about throwing out? If it’s still within its use by date and it’s relevant, why not sustainably gift it to those in need?


What sustainable gifts have you sent or received? Share your answers in the comments section below… 

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