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Blog post
January 16, 2023

How to measure PR: The 3 key pillars

How do you measure the effectiveness of a Public Relation (PR) campaign? In this post we explain some of the key PR metrics used by leading brands to demonstrate PR ROI.

Measuring the success of public relations has typically been a difficult task for communications professionals.

This is because relying on traditional metrics such as reach and impressions in isolation often doesn’t result in a clear, concise understanding of the performance of a PR activity.

So how do you define success in PR? Here are the three key pillars of any PR measurement programme.

Pillar 1: Defining your objectives

As a PR professional, it’s important to have a strategic plan that encompasses what your organisation is trying to achieve and how PR will support those goals. 

Strategic planning is a critical first step. This is particularly important when measuring the performance of PR because ROI cannot be measured solely based on traditional metrics alone. 

– Are you looking to increase your CEO’s profile among potential stakeholders? Your PR objective could be to arrange speaking opportunities at industry events for your CEO to become known among key audiences.

– Is your brand targeting new sectors? Your PR objective could be to pave the way for lead generation with a PR campaign. You could then use other marketing tactics to target your prospects.

– Is organisational reputation under threat? Your PR objective could be to improve brand reputation over a set period of time.

– Is your organisation launching a new product? Your PR objective could be to focus on awareness and support the marketing organisation in the delivery of a product strategy.

Having a clear and defined strategy can yield a robust and effective PR action plan that will support your business goals.

Pillar 2: Defining PR metrics

In today’s hyperconnected world, the abundance of metrics available to communications and marketing teams can make reporting overwhelming.

On the other hand, choosing your key metrics wisely and getting alignment between these and the set business objectives can lead to measurable PR.

So what are some of the key measures of the effectiveness of a PR campaign?

Mentions

Depending on your objectives, tracking media mentions can be a realistic representation of the performance of your PR campaign. 

With the right tools you can track mentions as they relate to brands, topics, spokespeople and more. Let’s take brand mentions as an example.

Brand mentions, though not directly tied to sales, are essential to understanding the impact of your PR campaign. Here are only some of the key metrics that you can use to examine brand mentions:

– Brand mentions by media type

– Brand mentions over time

– Total cumulative volume of brand mentions

– Sentiment related to those brand mentions

– Brand mentions by spokespeople 

As an example, in the below chart we have analysed a data set of brand mentions over the space of two weeks. PR teams can leverage such a metric to track the performance of a PR campaign as it relates to message penetration and volumes over key dates.

Measure effectiveness of your PR strategy at key dates
Media coverage over time gives you a view of the effectiveness of your PR strategy at key dates

Your chosen metrics should help you determine if your PR campaign is performing according to plans or if there is an opportunity to pivot your channels, message or other aspects of your activity.

Key outlets

Monitoring your target outlets can be a great way to understand whether your PR message is landing in the right hands and how this is like to resonate with your audience. Not surprisingly, most PR campaigns rely heavily on the successful execution of two key elements:

1. Consistency of the message

2. Share of Voice across target channels

Here is how outlet analysis can help you visualise message penetration, without employing manual processes.

PR monitoring by publication
Media outlet analysis helps you measure PR effectiveness by publication

The same data can give you insights into the potential reach of those channels, adding more context and measurable output to your reporting.

Measure of the potential reach of you PR content
Media outlet analysis can give you an important measure of the potential reach of you PR content

Share of Voice 

Employing Share of Voice as part of your PR reporting toolkit can shed some light on the performance of a particular message or topic over another. Whether you are tracking brands, industries, or other topics, Share of Voice can help you identify:

1. The number of mentions for one topic over another

2. Mentions of topics based on sentiment

3. Volume of mentions by media type / channel (see below)

There are other key metrics that can help you contextualise your media coverage such as time and news sources.

PR monitoring by share of voice
Share of Voice can help you measure the effectiveness of a PR campaign by campaign

Geography

Understanding the geographical extent of your PR effort is vital in order to assess the effectiveness of your campaign. In fact, whatever the objectives of your overall strategy are, most organisations have a very specific geographical reach or target.

Measure the geographical effectiveness of your PR strategy
Location charts can be utilised to measure the geographical effectiveness of your PR strategy

Location charts can help you identify where your message is landing and the geographical impact of your PR campaign. Your location report should include major metropolitan as well as regional outlets. 

Pillar 3: Tracking and Reporting

After you have identified the objectives and key metrics of your PR plan, define your tracking and reporting methodology.

Too often, reporting is seen as a tedious task to be carried out upon campaign conclusion. Tracking and reporting, if done correctly, can be an effective way to identify areas of improvement and opportunities to give your campaign the best chances of success. When defining the methodology of your PR tracking and reporting framework, consider:

Responsibilities: Who will be in charge of tracking and reporting on the various metrics?

System: Define what tools your team is going to use to measure PR and share the results with the various stakeholders. These can be as basic as shared spreadsheets or more comprehensive PR monitoring tools.

Cadence: Define the intervals of your tracking and reporting. When is the team going to look at and report on the various metrics?

Audience: Who will be the audience of your reports? Will this be shared externally (Perhaps with clients) or internally (Executive / leadership teams)?

Adjustment: What will be the process for analysing the results and adjusting your strategy throughout the campaign.

Measuring your PR campaigns right

In this article we discovered the three pillars of a PR measurement plan and discussed how measuring PR doesn’t only come down solely to analysing data. 

Defining your goals, setting your metrics and having a tracking and reporting system in place are the essential components that any PR and Communications team should take into account.

Isentia is APAC’s leading media intelligence provider, empowering PR and communications teams with the tools they need to make great decisions. For more information or to see our platform in action, schedule a demo today!

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The rising cost of living is not just an issue in Australia but a global concern that affects countless individuals, with people facing the daunting challenge of affording basic necessities while striving to maintain a decent standard of living. It’s a topic that can touch a nerve for many, but it’s also a dynamic conversation that drives the media, public opinion, and individual experiences. 

What’s driving the cost of living concerns?

A range of factors are driving the cost of living in Australia, with some having more of an impact than others. Using data from our sister company, Pulsar, inflation (as the overarching issue) is gaining the most media coverage as the price of goods and services continues to increase over time.

The top drivers of the cost of living
Source: Pulsar TRAC, 1 Jan - 30 Jun 2023

The chart also shows the rise in energy costs, interest rates, and housing prices (rent and mortgage prices) as other main drivers for cost of living concerns. As energy prices continue to increase, households are feeling the pinch as their expenses soar. And when it comes to housing, whether it's the skyrocketing rent or the burden of increasing mortgage payments, many individuals and families are finding it increasingly challenging to secure affordable accommodation.

Let’s take a closer look at these topics.

Energy fuels the discussion

Energy sources and prices are hot topics in the media, impacting households, affordability, and vulnerable populations. But a troubling discrepancy emerged in the May 2023 Budget: businesses got more attention than households in energy relief measures. Surprisingly, only 13% of media coverage focused on the struggles faced by individuals, while a whopping 29% centered around the politics and policies of Australian businesses. This raises valid concerns about whether the media is truly addressing the needs of Australian communities.

The energy narrative and the cost of living

Sectors feeling the heat of media scrutiny

Media outlets play a crucial role in shaping public opinion and influencing the cost of living. When it comes to specific energy sectors, they have become the subject of intense media scrutiny. Data from our Energy Transition report shows that coal and gas are in the hot seat, with a significant portion of media coverage - 43% for coal and 26% for gas - dedicated to discussing these fossil fuels. This media focus highlights the ongoing conversations surrounding the environmental impact of coal and gas, their contribution to climate change, economic considerations, and the urgent need for policy changes to transition to cleaner energy sources.

Feeling the pinch

The cost of living crisis goes beyond numbers; it’s intertwined with the housing market and interest rates. Escalating housing costs, fueled by rising prices and interest rates, can put immense strain on household budgets, leading to financial stress and widening economic inequality.

But the conversation doesn't stop there. The story behind the data is clear: the cost of living is an issue that affects us all, and the media plays a crucial role in shaping and amplifying the conversation. Google searches and social media activity reflect people’s ongoing concern about the weight of living expenses, especially around RBA announcements. Anxiety emerges as a dominant theme, with a staggering 93% of media coverage highlighting the keyword.

cost of living comparisons
Source: Isentia (print, online, broadcast), Pulsar TRENDS (Twitter), Google Trends, May 1 - July 30 2023

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows living costs have reached an all-time high. Over the past 12 months, all living cost indices have risen between 7.1 percent and 9.6 percent for all households, compared to a 7 percent annual increase in inflation.

The difference largely stems from living cost indices taking into account mortgage interest charges. Housing and interest rates have been the largest contributors to the rise in the cost of living, with home owners feeling the pinch from rising mortgage payments and renters feeling the brunt of it. According to the RBA, the average mortgage size in Australia has increased by 38% in the past decade. According to Pulsar data, unsurprisingly, 84% of Australians are left feeling sad about the cost of living. 

Influential figures shaping the conversation

Data from the Pulsar Platform gives a visual snapshot of how several Australian and foreign individuals and groups are influencing the conversation, including politicians, economists, consumer advocacy groups, and business owners.

who is talking about the cost of living
Source: Pulsar TRAC, 1 Jan - 31 May 2023. Influential people and organisations

Unsurprisingly, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) holds significant influence when it comes to shaping the cost of living conversation in Australia’s political landscape. As the governing body in Australian Parliament, their policies and initiatives subjectively bear the everyday Australian in mind, aiming to tackle the affordability challenges that many face. The ALP resonates with citizens worried about rising living costs due to its focus on income inequality, social justice, and fair economic policies. But are they doing enough?

Treasurer Jim Chalmers, along with other influential ALP members including Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Chris Bowen, and Mick de Brenni, are leading the conversation in an effort to alleviate living expenses and promote income growth. Despite their desire to achieve these outcomes, the public outcry on Twitter shows the frustration Australians are feeling. The Prime Minister and Treasurer are in the firing line, with the public urging more action on the cost of living crisis.

Jim chalmers and the cost of living
online sentiment about the cost of living

How media intelligence can help you navigate the cost of living

Advocacy efforts can be significantly enhanced through the use of social listening and media monitoring. These tools allow you to effectively navigate the dynamic narratives surrounding the cost of living. By tailoring your advocacy approach, you can foster a more equitable and sustainable solution that brings positive change to communities and influences public opinion.

Additionally, by staying well-informed about the ongoing public discourse and trending discussions related to the cost of living, you can develop compelling communication strategies that effectively inform and engage your stakeholders.

Curious about how media intelligence can enhance your communication strategies to connect with your audience? Request a demo here, and our expert team will reach out to help you develop your communication strategies.

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Blog
The Story Behind the Data: Navigating the Cost of Living

The rising cost of living is not just an issue in Australia but a global concern that affects countless individuals. Within our shores, people are facing the daunting challenge of affording basic necessities while striving to maintain a decent standard of living. It’s a topic that can touch a nerve for many, but it’s also a dynamic conversation that drives the media, public opinion, and individual experiences.

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Organisations today face the challenge of balancing business goals and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) responsibilities amidst growing sustainability awareness and social media misinformation.

PR and communications professionals are instrumental in this process, developing and executing effective communication strategies for ESG initiatives. They also play a pivotal role in ensuring ESG communications are authentic, transparent, and in line with organisational values and actions.

Who’s driving the ESG conversation?

Using media intelligence, you can learn who is driving the ESG conversation, allowing you to better understand the motivations, perspectives, and influences that should shape ESG initiatives and strategies.

Drawing on Isentia data, ESG coverage volume increased every month in 2023, reaching a peak of 22,700 in May and gradually decreasing in June and July. The increase in May coverage is a result of the government announcing several ESG initiatives in an energy-focused Federal Budget.

Stakeholder’s growing interest in sustainability and responsible business practices has led to increased focus on reporting, analysing, and discussing ESG topics in the media. These topics include renewable energies, shareholder engagement, and social impact.

The below chart shows the fluctuations in conversations across traditional and social media between June 1 - July 31 2023. The data shows that ESG-related conversations are driven by the media, which has a substantial impact on shaping public opinion. Futhermore, this suggests that traditional media is more effective at reaching a wider audience and generating greater coverage for ESG-related topics compared to social media. It also helps in making more informed decisions about media strategy and resource allocation.

Comparison of ESG coverage over time
Source: Isentia. Comparison of ESG coverage across traditional and social media from June 1 - July 31 2023.

Why authenticity and transparency matter

With ESG becoming a corporate imperative, there is an intensifying need for organisations to be authentic and transparent with their ESG communications. The need to do this is to:

  • Build trust and credibility: Openly sharing information about ESG practices and performance makes organisations more trustworthy and reliable to stakeholders and can generate positive media attention.
  • Meet stakeholder expectations: Organisations that show their commitment to responsible practices align better with stakeholder expectations and strengthen relationships.
  • Enhance brand reputation: Responsible, ethical, and sustainable organisations attract customers, investors, and talent while enhancing brand reputation.
  • Mitigate risks: By openly acknowledging challenges and sharing progress, organisations can effectively manage risks and maintain a positive reputation. However, if an organization overstates its sustainability accomplishments with misleading information, wording, or fabricated data, it can lead to a decline in public opinion. This can lead to public scrutiny, a damaged reputation, and a negative impact on financial performance.

The state of ESG reporting

ESG reporting is becoming more prevalent among organisations, and the push for greater transparency and accountability is widespread. While the level of disclosure may vary across industries, regions, and organisations, the overall trend is towards more transparency.
This increase in reporting is expected to continue as sustainability and responsible investing gain more prominence. According to the 2022 Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) reporting trends report, 140 ASX200 companies have shown the highest levels of ESG disclosure, a rise of over 10% compared to 2020.

ESG reporting coverage vs trends
Source: Isentia and Google Trends, Jan 1 - 31 Jul 2023

The chart data shows that more people are searching for ESG reports online compared to mentions of ESG reports in the media. This suggests that there is an increasing public demand to access organisational sustainability reports, ESG disclosures, and public commitments to responsible practices.

The ESG landscape

The ESG movement is gaining momentum, indicating a shift towards a more holistic and responsible approach to business and investment. This shift is influenced by ethical, financial, and regulatory factors and can be further understood through media intelligence. Additionally, by utilising media intelligence, you can identify the influences and emerging conversations surrounding these factors in traditional media.

With an added layer of social data from our sister company, Pulsar, you can gain a deeper understanding of the impact of your communications and identify the key influencers and factors shaping the ESG narrative. The chart below illustrates the connections between different narratives through keyword associations.

Prominent keyword groupings such as financial markets, superannuation funds, greenwashing, and business and investors suggest these topics are interconnected with the general public. These conversations play a role in shaping their decisions and opinions.

Exploring ESG associations
Source: Pulsar TRAC. 1 Jan - 31 Jul 2023.

Sustainability and climate change are crucial topics for Australians, with strong community support for transitioning to a net-zero economy and addressing climate-related issues.
Consumers are also showing a growing interest in sustainable finance and reducing their carbon footprint. While the chart below shows that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is currently the least trending topics, organisation’s are increasingly being urged to address gender disparities, promote equal opportunities, and foster inclusive workplaces that value diversity.

Trending ESG topics
Source: Pulsar TRAC and Isentia. Media coverage across Print, Broadcast, Online and Twitter. 1 Jan - 31 Jul 2023.

In the spotlight: Superannuation and Financial Services

Australian super funds are embracing ESG investing as enthusiastically as their corporate equivalents, recognising the potential for long-term sustainable performance.

ASIC, the superannuation industry regulator, focuses on tackling greenwashing, the misrepresentation of environmental, sustainable, or ethical attributes in financial products. As Australians grow more concerned about their super fund investments, ASIC emphasises the need for funds to substantiate their ethical claims with evidence.

The boundaries of ESG are subjective, allowing super funds to decide which investments they consider ethical and whether they engage with or divest from socially or environmentally harmful companies. Emphasising socially responsible investments and adopting a broad definition of ESG can enhance the superannuation industry’s reputation and individual performance.

From the below chart, Mercer Super holds the largest share of voice among Australian superannuation companies, with over 50 percent. ASIC has accused the organisation of greenwashing its investments by misleading members about the exclusion of carbon-intensive fossil fuel companies. Unsurprisingly, these allegations have gathered significant media coverage and attention in the industry.

Source: Isentia. Share of voice of Australian superannuation funds. 1 Jan -31 July 2023

Embracing ESG measurement

Communicators shape ESG narratives, aligning them with corporate purpose and finding the perfect balance between aspiration and impact.

Using media intelligence for ESG success: gain insights into stakeholder concerns, competition, reputation management, and communication strategies for effective outcomes. By leveraging media intelligence, you can make informed decisions and enhance your organisation’s sustainability initiatives.

To discover how media intelligence can assist your organisation in measuring its ESG efforts, simply fill out the form below.

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Blog
Using Media Intelligence for ESG success

Organisations today face the challenge of balancing business goals and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) responsibilities amidst growing sustainability awareness and social media misinformation.

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It's no secret that Australians and New Zealanders take their coffee seriously. Coffee has a rich history spans from ancient Ethiopia to modern European coffee houses, and its impact is felt worldwide. Coffee has become an essential part of daily life, and recent events such as the cost of living crisis and climate change have forced consumers to investigate and adapt to bringing the barista experience into their homes. But some people claim the improvement this would have on finances is inflammatory. But how are these new buyer trends playing in media discourse?

As a result, coffee brands are becoming more creative with their brand stories and product knowledge, while innovators in the industry are identifying gaps in the market that align with public values. Using audience intelligence data provided by Pulsar and Isentia media research, we can measure how audiences impact the coffee industry

– coffee up!

https://twitter.com/rachbeandesu/status/1186610364345020418
news media example of coffee being ethical

But what makes a good coffee? The taste and flavour of coffee beans are influenced not only by their country of origin and geographical attributes but also by larger factors such as climate change and human rights issues. While Australians and New Zealanders value sustainable coffee, the rising cost of a cup of coffee at cafes, which can now exceed $5, is leaving a bad taste in consumers' mouths. It's unclear whether this price increase benefits farmers or labourers. However, coffee shops that invest in sustainable and ethical coffee products are attracting consumers. For instance, Market Lane, a coffee institution based in Melbourne, is setting an example of fair pay for coffee growers by increasing their prices.

Coffee taste is a subjective matter. However, the sustainability of coffee production can be measured objectively through comprehensive facts and statistics. The incorporation of people's distinct preferences and interests into their perception of coffee can help us develop effective marketing and communication strategies through digital conversations.

Audiences groups hooked on jitter juice usually require its benefits of keeping them awake. That's the case for Twitch Streamers gaming and streaming into the early morning hours. The writing community also reaps the rewards of the extra kicks it provides, but writing has long been associated with coffee houses and the initiation of philosophical or revolutionary ideas. Sports fans (the biggest audience group) and NZ News Youngsters might seem a more surprising group to be on coffee's radar. But the sporting culture is strong in ANZ regions and matches demand that these fans stay up to watch games live domestically and internationally.

https://twitter.com/guruschmoo/status/1636259380009275392

A caffeine boost isn't the only reason these communities drink coffee. Each community engaging in the coffee conversation is finding a need to stay alert; while this isn't heralded as a health benefit, the social advantages of having a cup of coffee are often overlooked. #Auspol Followers, while invested in politics and political campaigning, like #votesyes, unironically use popular slang in their content. NZ Youngsters, with their shared affinity for using self-improvement and educational apps like Duolingo and Headspace and their following of young left-leaning politicians like Chloe Swarbrick, are learning how to enrich their lives to foster a better future for their generation; by exchanging ideas with like-minded people over a coffee. 

But going to a cafe isn't the healthiest of rituals for the hip pocket. The Sports Fan community doesn't embrace the pretentious side of coffee. Being an analytical bunch, they share an appreciation for business and tech news. This group's tastes, like their favourite team's gameplay, are driven by efficiency.

https://twitter.com/ratworldmag/status/1661673474694463489

The way people consume and perceive coffee is evolving. Price and sustainability are the primary considerations for buyer trends in these regions, but how does the media's portrayal of the coffee industry in these countries fit into the picture? News media has made stronger ties to the cost of living and coffee consumption over sustainability. With inflation rapidly rising, it's no wonder this connection is made. Many feel that investing in a professional-grade coffee machine and brewing their own coffee at home is a cost-effective solution that's promoted in the media. However, interest rates are rising and the media suggests that the future quality of life for both families and individuals, including from the Gen-Z generation, will depend on adapting everyday rituals.

https://twitter.com/SarahRo98908369/status/1635881841701036034

But Millennials and Gen-Zers get chastised for their "reckless" spending habits on daily overpriced lattes and smashed avo toast, so inflation cannot be ignored. Retailers are noticing the uptake of coffee bean purchases in buyer trends. Online barista novices and gurus are all sharing tips and tricks on how to get the perfect cup of coffee with the tools on hand, quality beans and compatible milk variety at a low cost. As people attempt to save by mimicking a barista-style coffee at home, they're also trying to discover alternatives in familiar brands and products that better fit their wallet, like the Cole's Express's $2.50 iced latte.

The beans favoured by Aussies and Kiwis' taste buds and wallets are Woolworths and Coles brands, but not far behind is Lazzio, an Aldi-owned brand, where shoppers are making even more savings, and Nespresso. Nespresso's compact and convenient products are an ideal alternative to cafe-style machines, and the brand utilises sustainability marketing initiatives. But big supermarkets like Coles are making an even more significant impact on buyer trends by providing a reason for them to spend more and stay longer like Coles Express' cafes enabling consumers to drink coffee under the guise of doing their regular grocery shop.  

Well-known brands not only catch the attention of consumers but also their competitors. The way a brand packages its products is an important aspect of its personality. Recently, Moccona's legal action against Vittoria has caused controversy in the industry and with the public. Some people have even suggested boycotting Moccona, an international brand.

So what does this mean for future coffee consumption and buyer trends? The coffee community is influenced by the broader macro trends impacting society, whether sustainability or cost of living. But the future is ethically and socially conscious, and daily routines are getting a similar makeover. In 3 years, don't be surprised if a cell-grown coffee is served to you in a cup made from recycled dehydrated coffee grounds or made available for purchase in supermarkets. How much would you pay for that though?


Understanding the big-picture narrative requires a comprehensive view of the news and social media landscape. The integration of using Isentia and Pulsar platforms allows us to democratise audience intelligence enabling organisations of all sizes to access and leverage data-driven insights for informed decision-making and achieving their goals.

Discover what audience intelligence can do for your marketing and communications today.

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Blog
The Impact of Cost of Living on Coffee Buyer Trends

It’s no secret that Australians and New Zealanders take their coffee seriously. Coffee has a rich history spans from ancient Ethiopia to modern European coffee houses, and its impact is felt worldwide. Coffee has become an essential part of daily life, and recent events such as the cost of living crisis and climate change have […]

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The circular economy of Australia’s soft plastics recycling system

You’ve probably heard of REDcycle by now - the initiative started by a passionate mum, providing Australian’s with the opportunity to recycle their soft plastics. Its operation helped reduce the amount of landfill in Australia and its sudden halt in operation sent the community into a frenzy.

The pause in the popular REDcycle program presented an opportunity to rethink the model for soft plastics recycling in Australia and find end markets for recycled package content. It also prompted Australians to rethink the way they consume products, rather than just the way they recycle them.

Social media conversations show Australians continue to encourage retailers and large corporations to use their influential power to create impactful change. These conversations are heightened where regression (or progression) is made towards sustainability.

Soft plastic recycling to the kerb

As Australians become more conscience about their soft plastic usage, it raises the question of whether the collapse of the REDcycle program was a blessing in disguise or more of a curse on sustainability?

From the end of October 2022 to the end of March 2023, Australians have consistently felt negative sentiment towards REDcycle’s collapse with spikes when key announcements were made by the organisation. Overall, close to 45% of Aussies felt negatively compared to 18.5% positive.

https://public.flourish.studio/visualisation/13610533/
Source: Pulsar TRAC. Sentiment across online and social media between 29 October 2022 - 23 March 2023

A Twitter user sharing their frustration about soft plastic recycling.

The collection of coverage

As people learned the news about REDcycle, there was heightened concern about how soft plastics were going to be recycled. With over 12,000 mainstream media items about REDcycle or soft plastic recycling, it supports the idea that Australia’s broken plastic recycling system is distressing for many and more needs to be done. 

The halt in operation brought on more concern for the environment and ignited feelings of anger and distrust after thousands of tonnes of plastic had been stockpiled instead of being recycled.

Soft plastic coverage over time
Source: Isentia, REDcycle coverage across broadcast, print. Source Pulsar Trends, Twitter coverage. Source: Google Trends, search coverage ( 1 October 2022 - 20 March 2023)

Media coverage across different channels (social media, search, broadcast and print) shows spikes of coverage on the same days (9 November, 7 February, 27 February) but at varying levels;

  • 9 November - REDcycle announced it would pause its operations indefinitely. This shock announcement caused an influx of conversations on social media platforms which then caused people to search ‘where to recycle soft plastics’.
  • 7 February -  additional stockpiles of plastic were discovered in warehouses. People felt disappointed and let down by REDcycle.
  • 23 February - supermarket giants announced they would take responsibility for the 12,400 tonnes of soft plastic stored by REDcycle in warehouses around the country, ahead of REDcycle declaring their insolvency. This announcement gained more chatter across social media in comparison to other channels. 

Conversations on Twitter represent social media as the preferred option for users in comparison to broadcast, print and search.

Closing the loop

As political leaders have the power to influence their supporters on sustainability development, sustainability advocates are pushing Australian leaders to accelerate plastic waste regulations. 

Conversations on Reddit rapidly grew on 9 November - the day the REDcycle program paused. Overall sentiment was anger and sadness with many expressing their feelings of disappointment after learning their donated soft plastics were not ending up where promised. Others felt frustrated or angry towards large organisations who were not holding up their end of the deal, especially after taking the time to correctly separate their recyclable waste. 

At 40%, political enthusiasts far outweigh any other active community on social media and forums. Their ‘passion’ for Australia can be overshadowed, as they share their beliefs towards the government - ranging from incompetence to over governing. Generation Z are true digital natives and make up 22% of active online communities. This cohort is motivated to make more sustainable choices, if it means it will benefit the environment for the long term.

Who are the active communities discussing soft plastics?
Active communities on social media and forums discussing REDcycle and soft plastic recycling. (October 2022 - March 2023)
https://www.reddit.com/r/melbourne/comments/yom5bc/comment/ivjanll/

Supermarkets to the rescue

The REDcycle program illustrated the complexity of soft plastics recycling and the need to build robust systems to close the loop on this common household waste. For years there have been stockpiling issues, dumping, toxic fires and lax regulations, making it challenging to operate.

Australia’s largest supermarkets continue to work towards reducing unnecessary plastics in their stores, and support the development of circular economies through the use of recycled material. 

Supermarket chains have moved quickly to find an alternative solution, teaming up with the National Plastics Recycling Scheme (NPRS) with financing from the Federal Government and top food and grocery producers to establish the Roadmap to Restart Taskforce.

23 February 2023, supermarket giants announced the return of soft plastics recycling by late 2023, despite the lack of recyclers. This announcement generated 6 x the amount of ‘supermarket’ Twitter mentions compared to 1 Nov 2022.

Twitter mentions and soft plastic recycling
Source: Pulsar TRENDS. Supermarkets and soft plastic recycling conversations on Twitter.

Although it’s a promising development, announcements like these are what drive the conversations and force change. This rings true as sustainability advocates push for more substantial action to address soft plastic waste in Australia.

Large organisations are being challenged to rethink how they package their products and how they can be more sustainable, what about the government?

A RED hot go

Minister for Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek, has been vocal in her response to the soft plastics recycling crisis. Initially, the program's failure was met with calls for urgent action with Ms Plibersek weighing in on the news, saying it was “really concerning” and put the pressure on major supermarkets to come up with an alternative recycling program.

Although it is acknowledged that the government plays a role, it has been made clear the responsibility also lies with manufacturers and packagers.

https://twitter.com/tanya_plibersek/status/1591611453098045440?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw
https://twitter.com/tanya_plibersek/status/1633006755646177280?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

State and Federal Ministers are actively sharing their opinions and policies online in an effort to make change faster and positively influence their audience. Victorian Premier, Dan Andrews and the Victorian Government are leading the way, banning the selling and supply of single-use plastics in the state.


Commonwealth, State and Territory governments have jointly invested considerable funds into developing local capabilities to recover the challenging recycling stream and have committed to turning around Australia’s lack of progress on its recycling targets, setting new targets for 2025.

Who is leading the soft plastic conversation
Source: Pulsar TRAC. Influential federal and state leaders driving conversations about recycling and soft plastic usage.

Adding another interesting layer of insights on social media from our sister company Pulsar, is that reddit is playing a major role in disseminating sentiment surrounding the REDcycle program. The below chart shows the most recurring keywords grouped by channel. The larger the tile, the more times the topic has appeared in that channel. Conversations involving scientists were notable and finding a solution to plastic pollution was a key narrative.

https://public.flourish.studio/visualisation/13206820/
Top keywords by channel. (October 2022 - March 2023)
https://twitter.com/IJepson/status/1590496324209999874?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfwu0022u003eN

Trust was also a recurring keyword across all channels, indicating trust needs to be rebuilt. is something that needs to be rebuilt. Australians have begun to lose faith in the recycling industry as there is a lack of transparency into how much actually gets recycled.

The introduction of a new taskforce - the Road to Restart - will work towards rebuilding the public trust in soft plastic recycling. The taskforce also endeavours to ensure supermarkets and the packaging sector will get it right on their own accord.

The way forward

Conversations through online forums show Australians deeply care about sustainability, stating that ‘unless it can be recycled, it shouldn’t be produced.’

Social media platforms are especially fueled by sustainability advocates who need to share a broader awareness of recycling initiatives and earn potential audiences - conversations are widespread and emotions are elevated. Whereas broadcast and print channels are sharing the facts and the need to know information, directing audiences to use the information they have and to search where they can take their soft plastics. In addition to sustainability advocates, everyday Australians are learning how to pivot, seeking out support and ideas from fellow supporters on Twitter and other social media platforms.

If organisations can work together and policymakers can set clear legislative frameworks, it’s possible to implement necessary changes in both manufacturer and consumer behaviour to create a thriving circular plastics economy. 

The pause of REDcycle is certainly on its way to being a good thing for the environment.

If you would like to learn more about discovering how media intelligence can lead to insights across environmental issues or the active communities leading the conversations using audience intelligence, get in touch with us today.

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What’s the wrap on soft plastic recycling?

The circular economy of Australia’s soft plastics recycling system You’ve probably heard of REDcycle by now – the initiative started by a passionate mum, providing Australian’s with the opportunity to recycle their soft plastics. Its operation helped reduce the amount of landfill in Australia and its sudden halt in operation sent the community into a […]

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