don’t trash your employee communications budget. have the infrastructure in place.

June 14, 2010

in communication

you know philadelphia, the city with the lingering moniker, filthadelphia? recently, the city decided to dump that image and replace it with one of civic pride.


the campaign launched smartly with a mayor’s speech and the streets department buddying up with street poets, individuals who connect with youth in their teens to early 20sā€”those who, in my experience, carelessly throw an empty box, a cigarette container, a soda cup on the ground when a trashcan’s no farther than 10 feet away.

then there was the website, subway ads, and wrapped buses. a twitter account, a youtube one too. a facebook page and a flickr presence. a pledge. a newsletter.

as far as i can tell, we’re still filthy.

sure, change takes time. that’s definitely part of it. but there’s something even more basic at play hereā€”

philly lacks garbage cans.

depending on where you are in the city, you can go blocks without finding one. who’s going to carry their trash that long when they’re disinclined to throwing it away properly in the first place? where cans do exist, they’re solar-powered compactors (super cool) that require people to touch them when they’re filthy (super not cool). and they’re often overflowing, with trash stacked beside them (super duper not cool).

communication can make good programs rise above and great programs even greater. it can’t work miracles.

don’t trash your employee communications budget. have the infrastructure in place.


Cancel reply

Leave a Comment

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve Boese June 14, 2010 at 12:55 pm

This reminds me of a story I heard (or read) about the placing of trash cans inside of Disney theme parks. The folks at Disney did surveys to see about how far guests were willing to carry trash before they got antsy for a trash can. Once Disney had the data they arranged the placement of trash cans accordingly. More concern about providing the solution, and less about figuring out how to talk about the solution. Great points in the post.


fran June 14, 2010 at 1:09 pm

thanks, steve. i’m not going to say it’s easy to roll out flawless communications that’ll drive the behavior one’s looking for. i am going to say it’s next to impossible to do it if everything within your organization doesn’t make it possible and back it up.



Paul Smith June 14, 2010 at 9:42 pm

On the walk home tonight, a kid with his friends, through his McD’s trash right onto the ground. They were across the street from a trash can & one block away from one in the direction they were walking towards. I wanted to ask him why he did it, but I predicted it would lead to him telling me to F-off, or something equally as clever. (That has happened many times before)
After reading your article, I thought the same as Steve. Did Philly even examine the reasons why people litter here? Or did they simply hire a PR firm, and went with catchy slogans.
I know there a great deal of problems here in Philly. But I’m of the mind frame that litter is the #1 problem. The dirty streets keep people downtrodden and in bad moods. There are other reasons besides litter to be in bad moods in Philly. But living in dirt, doesn’t help people to feel empowered to conquer the other problems.
Clean up the streets and people will have more pride in themselves and the city.
The litter problem needs more than hip slogans. It needs an examination of the culture.


fran June 15, 2010 at 2:12 pm

i actually think philly did examine some of the root problems, and that’s why they went with street poets. i also really like their messaging around loving ourselves and our city. they’re hitting what you’re saying — that what we do affects who we are and how we feel. go check out the site ( i think it’s a good start. it requires more time, more resources, more education — oh yeah, and more cans!– to fulfill its promise.



Previous post:

Next post: