How to Run a Renewable Energy Public Relations (PR) Campaign
In mid-2022, almost 60% of Fortune 500 CEOs said their company had a plan to reach net-zero by 2050. Renewable energy companies can expect to see a significant surge in demand from corporations looking to decarbonize. Because of this, renewable energy companies are also going to face a lot of competition. A strategic renewable energy public relations campaign is no longer a “nice to have” – it’s a must. In this blog post, we will explore key strategies and best practices to put you at the front of the crowd.
The value of PR for renewable energy companies
Renewables have been competitive for a while; in fact, they’re expected to overtake coal as the largest global energy source by 2025. But that doesn’t mean cleantech companies can push PR and marketing to the wayside. Fossil fuel companies continue to spend millions on advertising as the threat from disruptive clean energy technologies grows. The renewables industry might not have the same budget, but a solar, wind, storage, hydrogen, or other clean energy startup can at least get on the competitive field with incumbent energy corporations by creating a strategic renewable energy public relations campaign.
Why is public relations (PR) important for renewable energy companies?
There are two main audiences for a clean energy company’s PR campaign. First are energy customers, which often consist of utilities, large corporate energy consumers, or national governments. Second are the host communities where a project is built. I’ll discuss why PR is important for gaining the approval and attention of both.
1. Enhances trustworthiness and credibility
There’s a new trend in the customer’s buying journey: The bulk of their research is done before they will take or make contact with a sales rep. You can read more about this issue in depth in our Modern Cleantech Marketing Guide + [B2B Marketing Checklist]. Securing positive news coverage through an earned media strategy can help you control the narrative of your company and make sure that a potential customer has a positive first impression – reinforced through company content marketing – before reaching out to your sales team.
2. Helps with marketing
Well written stories, podcasts or TV appearances around your company are perfect sources to pull snippets for paid marketing campaigns or social media. Prioritizing public relations and securing earned media stories will give your communications and marketing team valuable content to work with as a campaign is executed.
3. Improves brand awareness
As solar and wind power drop in price, renewable energy will start to be seen as a commodity. In other words, instead of your company being perceived as providing a unique product or service, you will become interchangeable with any other renewable energy company in the eyes of consumers. The result is a squeeze on profits. A strong public relations strategy – combined with a mix of media outreach, social content and owned content – will help distinguish your brand and the value a company’s products deliver distinct from those of its competitors.
4. Increases leads, sales, and profits
The reasoning behind this is straightforward — interviews, features, and mentions of your company in news coverage position you as interesting to potential customers. Third party verification from news sources, trade outlets and podcasts, and influencers in the energy industry gives your company a social seal of approval, if you will, that can aid your sales team.
5. Improves website metrics and online presence
Working with a public relations agency in tandem with a search engine optimization (SEO) expert can compound the impact of your efforts. You can amplify your company’s earned media coverage with carefully cultivated social media content and blog posts that utilize SEO. Over time, this can boost your company’s ranking in Google searches and other website metrics. Liudmila Kiseleva, CEO of Rampiq, recently wrote a guide on using SEO for cleantech companies for our blog.
Difference between advertising and PR
The most important difference between advertising and PR is that the first is paid, while the latter is earned by being “attention worthy.” A marketing team might help a company write a sponsored article that you pay to have run in a news outlet.
Some other services an ad agency might provide include:
- Graphic design and videography
- Copywriting for advertisements
- Media planning and buying on various channels
- Branding and brand strategy, including logos, taglines, and messaging
- Market research
In comparison, a public relations specialist will help you build a stream of interesting content that can be used in pitching efforts to reporters and podcasters. Some other services Tigercomm provides are:
- Narrating your company to markets and investors
- Earning placement in trades, legacy outlets, radio, podcasts, and more
- Securing fair treatment from policymakers through public education
- Community relations and acceptance
- Developing strong thought leadership
A blended strategy of both paid and earned content will keep your cleantech company consistently in front of critical audiences.
Creating a renewable energy public relations strategy
When starting any project for your company, including PR, it helps to make decisions backwards. Identify the most important outcome for your business that you want corporate communications to support. Say it’s $5 million in new sales, coverage in every trade outlet, or a speaking slot at a major conference — and your timeline. Bringing this information to your potential renewable energy PR agency will speed up the process and help identify what action steps and budget will be needed to achieve your goals.
Common challenges with renewable energy PR
There have been a plethora of recent cases where wind and solar projects are pushed out of communities via local opposition that organizes on Facebook. These campaigns are led by anti-renewables activists —sometimes supported by fossil fuel interests— who succeed by spreading disinformation about the health, environmental, and economic impacts of renewable energy projects. You can read about one of the latest battles in this article by David Gelles at the New York Times.
The bottom line is this: building a project is not enough. If a clean energy company tries to quietly start a project, it risks failing. Engaging the local community before, during, and after the project’s construction is key, and a robust communications plan plays a big part. We’ve written about NIMBYism and how to counter it here and here.
Choosing a renewable energy PR company
As renewable energy becomes more profitable, I predict you’ll see more and more public relations agencies eager to work with cleantech companies. Often these are larger agencies with a brand-new team dedicated to cleantech or clean energy. Depending on how long this branch of their company has been around, their staff might have a limited portfolio or lack of experience in the sector.
Yes, I’m biased, given where I work. But in my view, an agency that specializes in clean energy will have a more robust set of strategies, deeper industry knowledge, and a stronger Rolodex of connections in the clean energy industry. Tigercomm is one of the only PR firms solely dedicated to clean technology. In our 17+ years of experience, we have worked with everyone from small disruptive startups to some of the largest clean energy providers and manufacturers in the industry.
As you look to raise awareness about your company in the cleantech sector, consider using a renewable energy PR company. As the renewable energy industry takes off, there will be more companies to compete with, as well as more customers to serve. Using PR to enhance your credibility, help with marketing, increase brand awareness, boost sales leads, and improve website visibility will help your cleantech company succeed in the digital age.