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5 Tips to get started with Cleantech PR

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Imagine you’re leading a scrappy cleantech start-up. You’re equipped with a vision for a healthier planet, a groundbreaking innovation that’s ready to make an impact, and the engineering muscle to bring it to life. Your team is ready to go, but your world-changing development can’t change the world without funding and buyers.

You’re busy reimagining clean energy, or the next step in the circular economy transition, or climate technologies to help keep 1.5 alive. So, you leave marketing to the experts and decide to hire an agency to help your startup win visibility and credibility in your industry. 

You may have some questions at this stage, like how to choose an agency that will help you achieve your twin goals for a healthy business and a positive impact on the planet; what should the PR process look like for a cleantech business, and what will be required from your internal team in order to have the best results. 

Read on to learn five proven CleanTech PR recommendations that are aligned with sustainability-centric values and cleantech business success.  

1. How to Earn PR that Supports Your Cleantech Vision

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Cleantech startups are built on a vision for sustainability and a better, cleaner future. Effective cleantech leaders keep their sights locked on that vision and evaluate everything - including marketing - through a lens of how it contributes toward a healthier planet and society, as well as how it contributes to a healthy business. 

For example, SurfCleaner, a cleantech startup in Sweden has a vision for clean water and a healthy climate. Netherlands-based Grown.bio has a vision for zero waste. Deko Eko imagines a just and circular economy. In each case, the product is important, but only as a vehicle to move toward the vision. The same applies to PR for cleantech businesses: publicity is a vehicle to educate audiences and activate the vision. 

It’s important to think critically about PR strategies, channels and messages. Activities should not be done for the goal of publicity for its own sake, but instead for the goal of sharing knowledge, earning advocacy, and inspiring action. 

2. How to Steer Clear of Unintentional Greenwashing

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Cleantech businesses have no business driving excessive consumption or thoughtless use of resources. A careless PR strategy can easily backfire with environmentally-concerned audiences. Worse, careless marketing can undermine progress toward climate action. Therefore cleantech businesses need to ask more of their PR strategy than to simply drive buying behaviour or buzz.  

With the right goals, strategy and execution, businesses and sustainability can coexist. Marketing analysts project that mounting consumer and regulatory pressures to address the climate crisis mean increased demand for cleantech solutions. Forecasts point to $82 billion in cleantech industry growth by 2025 and purpose-driven businesses are gaining momentum, as we see with the B Corporation movement and the ESG revolution.  

But how? First, let’s be crystal clear and intellectually honest within your organisation and with your PR agency about how your company’s work contributes to a healthier planet and society. Nothing can be done without this step. As your company evolves, it will be crucial to continually challenge and refine your processes to stay aligned. 

Then, avoid a siloed marketing strategy. Instead, integrate marketing with your environmental commitments. For example, traditional marketing KPIs include brand awareness, lead generation, and sales; but a cleantech company’s marketing KPIs might also include awareness of, advocacy for, and participation in the organization’s climate action initiatives. 

Strongly consider a sustainability-focused marketing agency, and collaborate with professionals who share your values, have a proven track record with sustainability projects, and will steer clear of intentional and unintentional greenwashing practices. 

Experienced cleantech PR professionals avoid any perception of greenwashing by scrutinising messaging to ensure content is transparent, factual, and free from hyperbolic or misleading claims. They also carefully evaluate the tools, physical materials, and vendors used to deliver the messages. In short, a  holistic approach to sustainability is the only sustainable marketing strategy. 

In this way you will be able to avoid the two most common cleantech PR mistakes: 

Doing, but not communicating

There is an amazing circular restaurant in Utrecht, The Netherlands. But neither in the restaurant itself nor at their website can you learn about the countless and game-changing circular concepts and methods applied in the restaurant. You can learn about them solely at third-party websites and on YouTube.

So, if you just visit the restaurant, you might leave it thinking it is a regular restaurant and there is nothing special about it. Not only that, but it misses opportunities to expand its positive impact by reaching potential customers who would prefer to choose a circular restaurant if they were aware of the option.

Communicating, but not doing.

There is a very nice resort in Sardinia which claims everywhere to be The Best Eco Resort in the World but you will be confused while being there since there is so much waste, and single-use plastic abounds in their operations.

3. How to be Relevant and Offer Real Value

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Traditional PR insists that any publicity is good publicity, but a good cleantech PR strategy will aim higher to build credibility and support for environmental stewardship. 

Ultimately, this is accomplished by facilitating PR activities which provide real value to meet the real needs of your audience. Step one is deceptively simple:  understand who your audience is, what their needs are, and how you can help.

A cleantech marketing agency will bring industry savvy to the starting line for a PR project. They’ll build from this baseline to establish a strong foundational understanding of the unique buyer personas and use cases for the specific cleantech solution. At the end of this research stage, the goal is to have a clear understanding of: 

  • Segments of people or types of organizations who can benefit from the cleantech solution (the target audience)

  • Goals and jobs to be done by the target audience

  • The target audience’s beliefs and perceptions about the solution and category

  • Channels used to find related information about the category or the related jobs to be done

  • Keywords the target audience might use to research the category, problem and solutions online

  • Publications, events, influencers and communities that are trusted by the target audience as good sources of related information 

As a result of this research, it is possible to create a relevant plan of PR activities to work out the right positioning and messaging as well as to approach the audiences who will benefit most from your solution via the right channels and in the right media.

The best method to conduct this research is to interview representatives from each of these groups:

  • Existing customers - they help to understand the jobs to be done by the solution and its real value 

  • Lost customers - they shed light in what cases or for what types of organizations the solution is not valuable and should not be pitched

  • Prospects - they help to understand the expectations, objections and blockers 

  • Cold leads who do not know your company will help to understand the mainstream alternatives to your solution and what it takes for your solution to be considered (e.g. what is missing at the website or pitches to catch attention of such companies)

Another useful outcome would be creating a prioritised cluster of topics around how the cleantech solution meets needs, solves problems, and supports the values of each audience segment. These topics create the foundation to discover the journalists and influencers who are engaged with these issues and build PR pitches that offer interesting and meaningful information. 

4. How to Develop Authentic Relationships with Trusted Media and Influencers

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A next step is to develop a list of media, bloggers, vloggers, events and influencers that already effectively work with these topics, are trusted by the target audience and are highly visible in search engines. Analyst firms and market research firms should also be investigated, since enterprise organisations and investors rely on market reports from these types of sources. 

A cleantech PR agency may have existing relationships with the selected editors, journalists, analysts and bloggers. They may also need to do some outreach and research to understand their information needs and points of view, such as following them on social media and reading their previous works. Then, it’s time to gather story angles and reach out to media connections with pitch ideas that will be interesting and actionable for their respective audiences. 

5. How to Monitor, Multiply and Engage for Greater Impact

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On an ongoing basis, monitor media coverage as well as social mentions and other publicity to facilitate timely responses and build interactions that support the mission of your organisation. You or your agency can build on the relationship with media contacts and audiences by engaging them in followup dialog about the article and its response.

You can multiply your visibility by linking to the most interesting press articles,  interviews or other media coverage from a “News” section of your website. Share the article with your customers and followers via your company’s communication resources such as your e-newsletter and social media channels. And don’t forget to share great press with your employees - it builds pride and motivation for those who are doing the day-to-day work to help move the business forward.

Whether you use this cleantech PR blueprint yourself or reach out to a sustainability focused marketing and PR agency like Orange Bird for support, these tips will help you get started to earn advocacy and support for your cleantech vision

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