PR storytelling

The art of compelling PR storytelling for cleantech businesses

If you’ve read our previous content pieces or seen one of Alisa Murphy’s speeches, you know that we’re fervent supporters of putting the ‘why’ before the ‘what’. People buy why you do something, more than what you actually do.

This approach is true for both your brand and your PR. Successful cleantech companies know it and take communications seriously. For most of them, the first step is to appoint someone responsible for marketing and communications. However, this can be a problem, as cleantech companies often mix those responsibilities.

While they certainly go hand in hand, there are profound differences between marketing and PR.

Your marketing is not your PR

Both marketing and PR tell stories, but those stories want to achieve different things. To help tell the difference, think about two things beforehand: Is it a PR or marketing story? And who is your target audience?

While marketing helps your organisation to promote your services and products, and ultimately spur sales, PR is about building and maintaining relationships between you and the public.

This is a very critical and often misunderstood difference. When you use marketing tools, you ultimately pay to spread a message, regardless of the form. When you undertake PR activities, you’re building upon relationships built between you and journalists.

It’s crucial to make sure that you don’t talk to everybody in the same way. Think again about your target audience. Who are you addressing with your messages? What will your target group be interested in? If you are talking to potential customers, they might be interested in the product specifics or their economic benefit.

Addressing a journalist, you might think about painting the bigger picture. On top of that, identifying the right journalists for your story is key. Don’t just broadcast your stories and news, instead offer relevant insights and interesting stories.

All signs are green for cleantech storytelling

Global heating and solutions to combat it are getting more attention than ever. You probably remember Greta Thunberg sailing across the Atlantic instead of taking a plane to the UN Climate Action Summit last year,. The media coverage was enormous.The same has happened during the COVID-19 pandemic and push for a green recovery.

While these are positive stories for the global sustainability sector, cleantech companies face two substantial issues, especially compared with regular tech companies.

Cleantech companies often have a B2B focus, rather than B2C. While a levelized cost of energy is something that many can relate to in the cleantech sector, the majority of the general public probably won’t have the same knowledge. It is easier to relate to e-scooters on the street than to carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies. This results in an interesting phenomenon where almost everybody has an opinion on e-scooters, while the majority probably doesn’t even know what CCS is.

It also directly impacts relationships with investors. As we’ve already discussed, investment in cleantech companies is often significantly lower than in B2C companies.

As there is more awareness around climate solutions, cleantech companies deserve the attention they receive. This is particularly true from a storytelling perspective. Technologies that make the world a better place have a substantial advantage over old industries, while founders often have an interesting and inspiring personal story. Both of these angles are great prerequisites for media attention.

Don’t join the debate – shape it

A press release is the most obvious way of creating awareness for your company. But PR is changing. The more companies there are sending out releases, the harder it becomes for everybody to stand out from the crowd. Gone are the days of simply drafting a press release, sending it out and waiting for the international coverage to come in.

There is an even better approach: the story itself. As previously mentioned, most people can’t relate to cleantech projects. Storytelling enables you to overcome this challenge.

Don’t just talk about the specifications and certifications of your technology. Instead, focus on your company’s broader impact. How does your technology help society? The more specific you can be, the better – try to calculate the tons of CO2 that your technology saves, or the increase in energy efficiency it offers, for example.

Attaching specific numbers to a project will help to sell your story and to engage with your audience.  Once you have those numbers, find an example to make them tangible. For example, how do your CO2 savings compare to your country’s annual emissions? To the numbers of cars on the road? It’s important to be as relatable as possible.

Obviously, some projects are easier to communicate than others. This is why it’s essential to take a step back to make sure you identify the fundamental story that you would like to communicate. What you want to communicate about has to be the solution to a larger trend or problem you have identified.

Earn your thought leader position

We previously touched on the importance of content marketing to reach your marketing goals and more importantly on why you should build your reputation as a thought leader.

Most cleantech founders have a strong vision, which is something that you can use to build your thought leadership. There are two ways to put this into practice.

As founders often have an interesting personal story about how and why they came to start their business, this can be an anchor point for journalists. Try to use that potential while remaining authentic, otherwise you’ll lose credibility.

The second way is to strengthen the thought leadership of your company by penning op-eds or writing a blog. These mediums allow you to convey powerful messages and put your story into a broader context.

This is also why your company’s vision should be utilised as a reference point throughout all your communications materials. It is one of the strongest assets you have in your communication toolkit.

This article was adapted from one of our previous webinars. For more insights from Alisa Murphy and Jan Bohnerth, you can watch the full webinar below:

Do you need help taking your PR strategy to the next level? We specialise in delivering PR campaigns that enable cleantech businesses to achieve their commercial goals.  To benefit from our advice and experience, book a free consultation with us. We’d love to hear from you!


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