The cleantech / renewable energy / sustainability / green energy sector(s) are very noisy right now. Each week brings funding announcements, new projects and product launches. Rampant adoption of all things green is happening at nearly every level, from utilities to governments to green builders to consumers themselves, many of whom are purchasing rooftop solar and EVs.
This global phenomenon inspires most of us, but it does create a challenge for companies operating in these spaces to stand out and make themselves heard.
This is why PR professionals and marketers need to rethink their external communications efforts. Promoting next generation technology simply won’t cut it anymore. It’s time to lead with substance and insight, especially when it comes to policy and current events – which many of us consider the front line of climate change battles.
It is here that cleantech brands can be most effective in cultivating a reputation for understanding the complex and ever-changing policies and processes, and creating meaningful impact. A few tips:
- Prepare the right spokespersons to speak to breaking policy and legislative news. Every few weeks a new bill is passed at the federal or state level. Brands and cities are setting and striving for new carbon emissions goals.
The only problem? Most of the time, no one knows what that means. For example, $7.5 billion was recently allocated to EV infrastructure, and $7 billion for critical minerals required for battery development. It sure sounds great, but I saw more companies pontificating about how this would impact their own corporate trajectory than explaining to their employees, partners and customers how exactly this would work. Few of them used media relations in an authoritative way. Journalists are still the best conduits to the public, and I get the same feedback from them regardless of whether they’re reporting at the trade or national media level. Everyone wants to promote, few want to provide context or insight.
Interestingly enough, plenty of brands have internal policy, growth or strategy people who are quite capable of speaking to policy nuances, but they’re passed over in favor of the CEO or another c-suite representative. The best recommendation is for companies to media train and make these spokespersons available. Doing so will generate more meaningful visibility for the brand, and often strengthen its reputation as a doer and not a talker.
- Say something meaningful. The only thing worse than a company that uses every single marketing opportunity to be overly promotional vs. informative and engaging, are those who say something so generic that it would be better left unsaid. Yes, if you’re working in renewable energy, we assume that you will “applaud all proposed bills that hasten the clean energy transition.” We know that!
Instead, corporate spokespersons should speak to real world topics and issues that have direct and tangible business outcomes. If one sector gets funding, how will it impact another? How will a certain policy significantly boost or slow adoption in a certain state? Why is certain funding a waste of time and resources? What will the global impact be?
These are questions that journalists and their audiences are interested in, and are intended to provide answers for those making business and financial decisions.
- Don’t wait. The proverb “He/she who hesitates is lost” applies to many things in life, especially corporate communications. When news breaks, whether about policy or a new technology demonstrating tantalizing potential in the lab, speak on it! Having worked in public relations and marketing for nearly two decades, I’ve seen the difference in credibility and traction that a company receives when they respond to relevant news in a timely fashion versus the disappointment that comes to those who drag their feet.
I’m speaking specifically to the companies who overthink each potential news item, take days or sometimes weeks to determine a position, then have several rounds of approvals needed before that message can be conveyed to the public.
The US media landscape, especially with respect to clean technologies and sustainability efforts, changes on a near daily basis. If you spend days or weeks getting your messaging just right, the majority of the time it will all be for nothing. Strike when the iron is hot.
- Take it to social. Typically, once a brand has chosen its spokesperson, put together thoughtful insights and gone on the record publicly, they should own it everywhere. Instead of sharing with just journalists or with employees via internal communications, consider posting to platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and sure, sometimes Facebook. I’m often surprised by how frequently companies react to current affairs, only to find that they’ve forgotten to publish to social media. Doing so often engages more people within your respective industry or business, especially with employees, and leads to visibility with more targeted audiences.
- Consider long-form self-publishing. Not every single public position your brand and spokesperson take is going to get picked up by the media or go viral on LinkedIn. Don’t give up! Consider turning that messaging into a blog post over 700 words designed to provide in-depth analysis on a specific topic. Sure, it may not get thousands of reads right away, but it provides significant SEO/ORM value and could drive the right visitor (like a potential customer, partner or financier) to reach out and create dialogue.
Other examples of self-publishing include short videos which are very social media friendly, or even corporate podcasts that, even when done intermittently, can strengthen a brand’s reputation in and out of the cleantech space.
A decade and even just a few years ago, it was easy to stand out among cleantech and sustainability brands. Today, companies in this space need to think much more like a dedicated cleantech PR firm, and think about adding value via their insights and experience to separate themselves from the herd.
This article is supported by FischTank PR.
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