How PR helps the green sector find a voice10 years ago
Kevin Dorrian sees a lot of PR potential across a rapidly growing sector.
Bandwagon jumping or do we really care! In the last ten years, we’ve all become more aware of our environment issues – the trends, the debates and so on. Much of what we discussed gets translated into the wider PR debate on just how ‘green’ can PR get. If ‘being seen to be green’ is the umbrella function – what concerns us? A few years back, all the talk was on everything from greenhouse gases and the global economic impact of the cost of extracting a barrel of Brent Crude, to climate change – they formed the lion’s share of the ‘green lexicon’.
Today of course, we’ve moved further down the line with Solar, Smart Grid, Clean Tech, Lo-Carbon Management and Corporate Sustainability all vying for media attention.
And in a good, positive way, organisations that think green from a PR perspective, can turn this to their advantage – promoting environmental, renewables and other ‘clean’ causes, by appropriately theme-ing their products or services that makes them extremely media attractive ‘Green’ PR practitioners.
There is a broad church that believes the environment – in a similar way in which we now embrace social media - had a profound impact as a prominent PR ‘tool’ this past decade. Of course many jumped on the bandwagon and saw masses of potential as the public relations ‘cause du jour’. Consultancies continued to make claim after claim on their clients’ ‘Green’ credentials and companies would trot out these bold claims, very often without verification.
However, these ‘green’ claims needed to stand up to scrutiny. Such claims needed to be scientifically sound and substantiated. Think about the ultimate target audience – the consumer. They are entitled to rely on any environmental claims and to expect these claims to be truthful. There have been incidents over the years of misleading consumers about the environmental benefits of products and services which could not be backed up with tangible proof – the automotive industry was a case-in-point, where negative publicity would undoubtedly have affected sales and damaged reputations.
Green PR practitioners – consultancy or in house-based – have a continual need to generate credibility in an industry that unquestionably has become more sophisticated over the years. For example, lots of blogging is done to draw attention to the cause; something which wasn’t around a decade ago.
Indeed, it is fair to say that no other sector in the economy grew as fast these past few years and none is forging ahead more than the smart, green technologies such as clean tech – due, in no small part, to the stimulus investors have placed on the emergent technology sector. Globally, money has flowed freely into clean and green technology sector, particularly in India, China and others around the Pacific Rim.
Big PR consultancies have launched Green divisions, smaller firms have become specialists, managing sustainable and disruptive technologies. Our universities are full of researchers bringing about pioneering concepts in lo carbon applications, new dynamic LED lighting concepts, electric vehicle management, Li-Fi – using light as a wireless broadband medium. The list goes on. So there is a demand to get the message into the media and into the minds of the masses.
Experience, of course, has taught us that clients will also be looking to be placed in niche industry publications more than in mainstream media and today’s ‘Green’ offering across the trade media is growing by the month.
Savvy publishing groups now offer up not just ‘generic’ titles, but we are now seeing a plethora of niche titles too...and it usually follows that, the more ‘specialist’ the publication is, the better the coverage accrued for the client.
What’s more, there is a great opportunity to capitalise on this, by offering clients up as thought leaders and secure regular columns or pages in one of the publications closely tied to their technology.
Delivering on promises
This sector is really no different from any other in terms of strategy planning and execution. There is a need to deliver on promises, secure the targeted media coverage enabling the message of technical leadership and market strength to reach into the key audiences.
As a result of this media penetration, the awareness of the technology – Cleantech or otherwise – is clearly in the market’s mind. The success of your effort can be seen in the quality of the coverage and the leads that are generated. As you then set to establish your client as a market leader, you will be seen as an invaluable part of the overall effort...and it can do no harm in raising visibility and help you reach your own growth goals
In many countries, the Government and its various agencies like this sector. All this talk of Clean-tech, Lo Carbon, Smart Grid is good for the PR industry. Why? Various agencies can offer funding or at the very least point companies at funding sources – angel investment, VC funding vehicles, equity partners, etc; to help further develop the technology.
Much of this hinges on the fact that a marcoms strategy can be developed simultaneously to the technology. So when the time comes to move forward to beta launch or whatever, it is done in a seamless fashion and with little interruption.
This is smart thinking and enables companies to seamlessly raise their profile.
All these developments in recent years have led to an intense focus on the bigger environmental picture amongst the media and government audiences.
Mark my words...this industry can only get more interesting.
Owner, Acumen Public Relations and Public Relations and Communications Consultantmail the author
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