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Renewable Energy World: Does national media coverage matter for cleantech?

on • 3 min. read

You might have seen this Washington Post story, “The Underbelly of Electric Vehicles,” which takes a critical view of EV production’s impact on people and the planet. It’s worth unpacking because it reflects several under-appreciated realities of generating attention from national media outlets.

At Tigercomm, we’re often approached by people seeking PR help, wanting us to pitch national stories. Effective corporate communications blends traditional news story generation with content marketing – a combination of both “owned” content and “earned” media.

I still get a thrill from working with journalists. It’s rewarding to identify compelling angles that match a reporter’s interest, then engage them with the patience necessary to find the narrative that wins the reporter over. The media might be on its financial back feet, and its role might be diminished from moving organic eyeballs to one of third-party validation. But I still love classic PR work.

That said, there are several misconceptions that clean economy companies sometimes voice that I want to address.

  1. Unqualified, fawning coverage from national media outlets is rare. Remember, you are “earning” attention by being interesting (versus paying for it). A reporter’s purpose is to serve readers, not be our makeup artists. Credible national reporters have a duty to explore both the upsides and the downsides of a business story. That’s what happened with this Post story, where the reporters focus on the “human and environmental cost” of making EVs.

As a prize-winning national writer covering the utility sector told me last year:

“We look for narrative stories. I need to find the struggle, find the tension — that’s the narrative. What is the harrowing tale I can tell?”

  1. Only the biggest, market-moving companies can generate national attention through commercial announcements. National stories require a different angle and approach than typical commercial announcements put onto the wire. To attract national coverage, your announcement must be either significant in size or a great illustration for a broader trend. It’s what your commercial announcements say about your sector, industry or the larger economy that can put you in contention for national media consideration.

  2. National coverage validates. It cannot be relied on to drive customers or investors to you. Content is king, and amplification is queen. The impact of national media coverage can be significant, but that requires sharing the coverage you earned directly with your target audience through amplification tactics.

  3. Mature incumbents will weaponize media to tamp down the threat of disruptive new sectors. The decades of climate denial, misinformation, deceit and outright lies spread by major oil corporations like ExxonMobil have been well documented. Energy incumbents are savvy, experienced, well-funded, and unafraid to use aggressive tactics to protect their market share. Now that renewables have become cheaper than fossil fuels, incumbents are working to prevent mainstream adoption of solar and wind. It’s not unreasonable to assume incumbents are egging on national media to seed doubt, ask uncomfortable questions, and highlight the “underbelly” of EVs in stories like this.

So what can cleantech B2B companies do to secure productive attention?

Read Melissa Baldwin’s full article in Renewable Energy World.