Sprint Yellow Pages Recycle for Literacy
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Sprint Yellow Pages Recycle for Literacy

Recycle for Literacy is a one-day event executed in several key Sprint Yellow Pages markets. Residents are encouraged to recycle their outdated directories at a designated event location, and for each directory recycled, Sprint Yellow Pages makes a $1 donation to a local adult literacy program.

Paul Holmes

Recycle for Literacy is a one-day event executed in several key Sprint Yellow Pages markets. Residents are encouraged to recycle their outdated directories at a designated event location, and for each directory recycled, Sprint Yellow Pages makes a $1 donation to a local adult literacy program.  BE&P PR implemented the program for the first time in 2000, and it proved to be a huge success, recycling over 31 tons of yellow pages directories and donating more than $30,000 to literacy groups in communities nationwide. 

In the last three years, BE&P PR expanded the program to more communities and increased promotion of the event to businesses, which helped make 2003 the most successful year for the program.  Sprint Yellow Pages Recycle for Literacy is deserving of a Sabre award because (1) it exemplifies the qualities of a cause-related marketing program; and (2) it has proven successful at building the company’s reputation.


Yellow pages publishing is a highly competitive, $25 billion industry. Sprint Yellow Pages – a unit of R.H. Donnelley – publishes more than 18 million directories in 18 states primarily in small communities where Sprint is the local telephone service provider.  The overall public relations goal of Sprint Yellow Pages is to build loyalty to their directories. 

BE&P PR was challenged to develop a cause-marketing program that would help Sprint Yellow Pages achieve its loyalty goal by distinguishing the Sprint Yellow Pages from other directories, building Sprint Yellow Pages’ reputation as a company that cares about the communities it serves, and increasing brand awareness.  The company had previously supported adult literacy because of its natural connection to the Sprint Yellow Pages product, and they were already supporting directory recycling in most communities.  BE&P PR combined these seemingly unrelated programs and created Recycle for Literacy.

Research, Planning Process, Objectives

Research & Planning Process:  BE&P PR conducted extensive secondary research and consulted with the Sprint Yellow Pages recycling analyst to select markets in which to implement the program in 2003. The markets were selected based on a combination of factors including directory revenue, directory distribution dates, market ranking, recycling capabilities and local media opportunities.

BE&P PR also conducted online research to gather recycling statistics and worked with the Literacy Volunteers of America (now ProLiteracy Worldwide) to secure adult illiteracy facts to leverage with the media. After researching media outlets in each market, BE&P PR conducted an informal media audit to identify and qualify the most appropriate contacts. 

In 2001, BE&P PR added a community response research component by using two additional resources – Sprint Public Affairs Managers in each community and Chamber of Commerce representatives.  Working with these key community residents allowed BE&P PR to better understand the environments in which the program would be implemented.

Objectives:  The communications goal for this program is to inform community residents that Sprint Yellow Pages is committed to and supports recycling and adult literacy efforts in their community.  Two measurable objectives were established:
1) Create awareness of Sprint Yellow Pages’ community commitment by obtaining at least 21 television placements, 42 radio placements, and 42 print placements (or the equivalent of one television, two radio and two print placements per market).
2) Correlate the Recycle for Literacy event to a positive image of Sprint Yellow Pages’ among community residents.

Strategic Approach

1) Provide a one-day recycling opportunity for residents communicating the environmental benefits of recycling.
2) Develop a partnership with a local benefactor – the local adult literacy program – to link the recycling drive to a community cause, which provides incentive for residents to participate.
3) Build grassroots support for these two causes by enlisting the help of local literacy group(s), key opinion leaders, media, civic organizations (Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club etc.), local Sprint Yellow Pages’ employees and other volunteers to persuade consumers to take part in this effort.

The team implemented a one-day recycling drive that encouraged residents to recycle their outdated directories in exchange for a donation to a local adult literacy program.  The money helps many residents master a variety of job and life-enhancing skills. The company’s support aided such programs as basic literacy tutoring, GED preparation, family literacy, workplace literacy, life skills training and computer literacy.

Key Messages:
• Sprint Yellow Pages is committed to supporting both recycling and adult literacy programs in the communities it serves. This one-day event accomplishes both goals.
• By partnering with Sprint Yellow Pages for this easy program, residents are empowered to make a difference in their environment and make a direct contribution to improving someone’s life in their community.

Target Audiences:
• Consumers using Sprint Yellow Pages products and services
• Businesses purchasing advertising with Sprint Yellow Pages

Campaign Execution

1) BE&P PR coordinated all recycling functions through local solid waste organizations. This included determining recycling capabilities, managing bin placement and choosing a visual and convenient event venue. On the event day, representatives from BE&P PR/Sprint Yellow Pages provided on-site management including coordinating with recycling organizations, unloading and counting directories, interacting with residents, taking photos and handling media relations.  Sprint Yellow Pages signage was displayed to increase brand recognition, while premium items and literacy information was distributed.

2) BE&P PR contacted the local adult literacy organization in each community/market to assist in event coordination and publicity. The literacy organization was educated on the importance of contacting members and volunteers to help raise awareness, distribute promotional flyers, offer suggestions for local promotion and provide manpower at each event.

3) BE&P PR implemented an aggressive media relations campaign. Gaining support of the media was vital to raising awareness and establishing a successful program in each market and involved the following: creating comprehensive media lists, pitching appropriate contacts, distributing press releases, conducting follow-up calls, coordinating interviews and conducting media training and providing educational materials. In markets with local television stations, BE&P PR coordinated live shots or in-studio interviews to increase awareness and communicate key messages prior to the event. To announce results, BE&P PR drafted and distributed a post-event release with photos. Further, BE&P PR contacted the local Chamber of Commerce to place announcements in the Chamber newsletter or at Chamber meetings or events. 


The 2003 Recycle for Literacy program results were measured according to stated objectives:

Objective 1:  Recycle for Literacy increased brand awareness by securing the following media placements, all of which communicated Sprint Yellow Pages’ key messages mentioned above:
Television –13 placements
Radio – 54 placements
Print – 99 placements
Internet – 32 placements

Total impressions:  8.2 million

Objective 2: Primary research conducted by Sprint Yellow Pages showed that people who were aware of the Recycle for Literacy events use and retain our client’s product (the yellow pages) more than those who are not aware, and they have a higher positive perception of the Sprint Yellow Pages.

In addition to media placements, Sprint Yellow Pages received letters of gratitude from the literacy organizations, and accolades from residents, the recycling organizations and the media. The program truly resonated with communities.  Senior citizens would not relinquish their directories until they knew it benefited literacy programs. Children went door-to-door collecting books. Businesspeople collected every directory in their office.  The campaign became a true grassroots effort and reached all target audiences. This program is frequently requested by Sprint Yellow Pages personnel in other communities and is being recognized throughout the company as an effective and results-driven cause-program.

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