Fortune 500

Back to school in happier classrooms: PPG brings color and vitality to neighborhoods

In many communities, child care centers and schools struggle to keep their doors open. Their facilities are old; their resources strained. Enter PPG and its signature COLORFUL COMMUNITIES™ program, a 10-year, $10 million initiative to enliven community assets using PPG volunteers, paint and grant money.

Since its founding in 1883, PPG has been an industry leader in innovation, sustainability and color – making paints, coatings, specialty materials and other products. This Fortune 500 company, with its global headquarters in Pittsburgh, has manufacturing and research facilities worldwide. And it invests millions into communities where its employees live, work and play.

Knowing that many younger employees especially want to volunteer and engage with their communities, PPG started Colorful Communities in 2015 in its own backyard – with a goal of transforming schools, hospitals, gardens and playgrounds. Making the world more beautiful can lift spirits, and making classrooms and child care centers more colorful can motivate children to learn.

In the program’s second year, PPG partnered with United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania to identify four sites in the Pittsburgh region in need of refurbishing and painting. But PPG faced the reality of media saturation: good coverage might not necessarily happen a second time, no matter how good the deeds. PPG asked Huss Group to put its connections to work and provide strategic communications services that would maximize traditional and social media awareness of the Colorful Communities initiative.

Huss Group dug in, identifying top prospects for positioning stories and creating impactful message points. Then we pitched targeted media, reaching out to TV, hyperlocal weekly newspapers, and digital publications in addition to the traditional dailies. We presented human interest stories about the people involved with these projects – volunteers who would spend 425 hours of their own time – and the lives their efforts would transform. PPG made its mark in August, preparing happy classrooms for kids to return to in fall. Pittsburgh muralist Lynne Mack worked with the nonprofit organizations to create three unique murals using brightly colored PPG Paints.

The result? Coverage by two Pittsburgh TV stations, including a prime-time feature story and Sunday talk show and by radio stations, including a feature by the NPR affiliate; two news features in a popular Pittsburgh digital publication and a video pickup by; and stories in a major daily and two weekly newspapers – all with photos.

When its second project of the fall rolled around – participation in Manufacturing Day – PPG asked Huss Group to assist again with media outreach nationally about this celebration of modern manufacturing that is meant to inspire the next generation of manufacturers.

Key Huss Takeaways:

We reached out to new media – and to targeted traditional media in new ways – to generate monthlong publicity for the work PPG’s skilled workforce does through volunteering. Then we boosted that earned media through social media platforms, sharing the news to an even wider audience.” Joanna Huss, CEO & Founder