Companies leveraging cleantech, renewable energy, plant-based engineering and materials development, smart city design and other sustainability products and services know the power of PR. A simple concept or technology can quickly become a movement, as we’ve seen with Tesla, and forever change an industry. For aspiring companies and organizations looking to hire a sustainability PR firm, it’s critical that they make distinctions for how to identify, and then reach, their respective target audiences spanning industry partners, potential customers, investors and the financial community, and of course – the general public.
Here is an overview of the case a strong sustainability PR firm needs to make to its respective stakeholders:
The financial and investment community.
You’ll need more than just a feel-good story! Economics matter and, as we saw from the solar fallout in 2009-2012 when numerous companies received millions in funding but never really had a shot at commercialization – substance matters.
If a company can’t make their case to the private or public markets about why market opportunity for their product, technology or platform has tremendous upside, then they’re going to struggle to raise capital needed to grow their business. For this reason among others, it’s important that PR and marketing professionals understand that even for the most sound technologies, you must demonstrate the demand for the product as well as your plans to scale.
Business partners and customers.
For many within sustainability, cleantech, renewable energy and similar emerging industries a company’s growth is dependent on their ability to build strong B2B relationships and attract channel partners to sell their product. For the PR and communications pros, this objective requires smart, business-focused storytelling, not big-picture “save the world” messaging. Guess what? If Battery Manufacturer A has an emotional story but their technology doesn’t increase capacity or reduce costs, they will eventually be SOL. If Battery Manufacturer B keeps their messaging focused on the value proposition and why the product will save auto manufacturers money AND increase consumer satisfaction, well…they’re more likely to succeed.
Ah, finally we are prepared for our emotional storytelling. But how does a company effectively inform the public about its ambitions? The environment is certainly ready. The majority of U.S. and global citizens care about the environment and understands that difficult days will come if we don’t address climate change, toxic materials in our oceans and streams, and the mountains of other problems ranging from air pollution to the amount of plastic we ingest each day.
But instead of lecturing – focus on the positive, and focus on results. For example, your average homeowner may not understand the highly technical nuances of rooftop solar or residential energy storage – but they definitely understand what a power bill looks like. Similarly, a company seeking to reduce toxic plastics in our homes may not understand how plant-based bioplastics work, but they definitely can understand the example of how Americans currently eat a nickel-worth (5g) of plastic each week. Point being? Make the case, and make it on the consumer’s terms.
Sustainability PR Firm: Understand and influence.
This seems pretty easy, right? Unfortunately, we still see many companies make the mistake of either having too technical messaging, or sticking too high level with the line of “here’s how to save the world.” The former may work on channel partner but not the investor or public, while the latter may cause a company to be discounted as a realistic solution or service provider. A strong sustainability PR firm understands these nuances, and should counsel their clients as such.