A PR lesson in polishing a snarky on-air comment

Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District turns a broadcaster’s wry reference into an information campaign for the Cleveland listening audience, winning a PR Daily Award in the process.


Sometimes an email campaign comes about as the result of focus groups, drafts and rewrites, compiling of massive mailing lists…

And sometimes, s#!t happens.

The winning entry for the Best Email Pitch category in Ragan’s 2013 PR Daily Awards is unusual.

The “campaign” was impromptu, and the email went to just one recipient. Most unusual of all, perhaps, was the subject line: Turd reduction.

Wait, what?

OK, a little background might help.

On June 27, 2012, “The Alan Cox Show” on FM radio station WMMS in Cleveland devoted a drive-time segment to beach pollution, specifically bacteria levels along Lake Erie. One caller mentioned the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District‘s efforts to curb pollution.

The sewer district’s public information specialist, Jean Chapman, was listening, and when Alan Cox used the phrase “turd reduction” in referencing the effort to cut bacteria levels, she chuckled. She also got an idea.

Chapman pieced together statistics and a program overview outlining its infrastructure projects, as well as clearing up some misconceptions. Cox replied directly to Chapman’s email, seeking details and asking about the district’s @wallywaterdrop Twitter stream. They talked and cleared up some confusion about the anti-pollution work.

The June 28 show kicked off the 5 p.m. hour referencing Chapman’s email and the “turd reduction” issue, talked about (and tweeted with) @wallywaterdrop, and read from the district’s blog.

Further on-air and @alancoxshow Twitter references followed.

From one email, a few blog posts, and some tweets—all at virtually no cost—the district secured nearly a half-hour of FM drive-time air, along with heightened awareness of its endeavors.

That sure beats turning life’s lemons into lemonade.

Congratulations to Chapman and her colleagues for catching PR lightning in a bottle.

Hear the full story here and here.

Want to get recognized for your hard work? Find out about Ragan and PR Daily’s award programs here.

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