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World Oceans Day: Why commitment to the environment must be more than a PR strategy

By Avril Matthews
Friday, June 08 2018

It’s not often that a PR strategy built around that sinking feeling is a good thing. But our client Victoria International Marina plumbed the depths to underline its commitment to the environment.

The marina’s team sank four reef balls in Victoria’s middle Harbour. Together, the three-foot-wide, 300 lb structures will become home to 100,000 young fish and all sorts of aquatic life.

Down, down, down, the reef balls went as their builders – Grade 9 students at Claremont Secondary – cheered.

Print and broadcast journalists covered the sinking ceremony, which helped spread the message about the upcoming World Oceans Day on June 8.

More than a PR exercise

But this was more than a public relations exercise. Those cheering kids neatly illustrated how our society’s hopes for the future are attempting to undo the damage done to our environment by past neglect and lack of foresight.

The Institute for Global Solutions – a move to take learning outside of the classroom to tackle challenges the world is facing – was founded at Claremont Secondary in 2012, so the school has a real focus on improving our environment and partnered with the marina on this project because of that.

Over time, each reef ball will be colonized by sea life and develop its own ecosystem. Each is a little step to restoring a balance. In the near future, a live camera feed from a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) will allow Claremont’s students and marina visitors to monitor its progress.

It’s a positive story, a public relations win – and a positive step taken by a company with foresight.

Reducing the impact

Our Victoria office has a number of clients who make a living on the water. They are becoming increasingly more aware of the changes happening in our environment and their obligations to reduce their impact on it.

But having green credentials has to go beyond being a PR strategy these days – businesses have to demonstrate their environmental policies are making a difference. Customers are so dialled in that they can tell when they are being fed a line, when there’s little or no action being taken to address the commitments an institution has expressed, and when a policy is empty words.

Tackling this comes back to one of the key tenets of PR: Tell the truth but tell it well. Put simply: don’t lie about your environmental commitments. It’s not just your reputation you harm, it’s the planet. Instead, be the change you wish to see.

My colleague, Deirdre Campbell, has written about how our clients are moving beyond looking to be sustainable in their business practices to taking a more restorative attitude.

Planning for tomorrow

Our PR strategy demonstrated how Victoria International Marina is planning for tomorrow. Those reef balls are the first stage of a process that will see Coho salmon released into the marina. The balls will become home to those young salmon. One day, it’s hoped, visitors will be able to do a spot of sustainable fly fishing in the clean waters.

The marina isn’t just telling a good story, it’s telling the truth. And its mission has benefits for its business as well as for our environment.

As a Canadian, I’m proud to say that my country instigated World Oceans Day. We’re bounded by oceans, many of our forebears crossed them to create new life here, we’re fed by them, and they help us trade internationally.

We shouldn’t just say we’ll look after the oceans – we should do as we say. Public relations is in our actions, as well as our words. 


Banner Image: Harbor Seal in Bull Kelp by Florian Graner


Beattie Tartan is the integrated communications specialist. Call 800 400 3831 to learn how we can boost your brand.