Cleantech is one of the fastest-growing and evolving industries in the world. A 2022 study from the International Energy Agency found that the expected growth of renewables over the next five years will be roughly comparable to the last twenty years combined. This rapid expansion makes perfect sense given the increasing awareness of the dangers of climate change and the now widely recognized importance of reducing emissions to avoid a worst-case scenario future.
The tremendous surge and positive outlook for the renewable energy industry bode well for our planet, especially when paired with similar expansion in cleantech and climate tech. Yet, as is true in any burgeoning industry, a bright future breeds competition.
It can be difficult for both new and established companies to set themselves apart and maximize their impact in this hyper-competitive space. A great place to start is with a thoughtful, well-rounded communications strategy. Here we discuss several key ingredients that can be uniquely combined to create an effective communications strategy perfectly suited to your business’s needs.
1. Get attention in the media
First and foremost, any cleantech business looking to increase its brand recognition should consider traditional media placements, which include newspapers, industry periodicals, blogs, podcasts, radio, and more. Each of these mediums offers value on its own, but a truly powerful press strategy should embrace multiple media types.
Of course, that is easier said than done. As you might imagine, securing a feature in a respected national outlet like The New York Times is not a walk in the park. But even getting a quote, a mention, or a backlink in a more niche industry publication can require heavy lifting in the form of networking, corresponding with journalists and editors, crafting pitches, and drafting articles for review. Podcasts and radio interviews come with their own unique hurdles such as coordinating interview times, prepping interviewees, ensuring participants have proper audio equipment, and more.
Despite the time and energy required to secure solid and relevant media placements, it is well worth the effort. Large brands and businesses have seen stock price increases of nearly 5% following effective earned media campaigns. Your business may not have the same reader recognition as some of these companies but earned media mentions build credibility no matter the size or scale of your company.
As mentioned above, mixing and matching media types is wise given that different audiences engage with different types of media, thus by sharing your message on multiple channels you can increase your reach substantially. Similarly, it is important to seek diversity in the size of the outlets you target. National coverage is great but shouldn’t (and frankly can’t) always be your North Star. Don’t discount the power of hyper-local or ultra-niche outlets. It is better to meet your target audience in their quirky corner of the world than shout your message into a vast and uninterested universe.
2. Participate in events
In-person events such as conferences and speaking engagements present an excellent opportunity to get your brand in front of a highly targeted and engaged audience. Because attending in-person events often requires travel and a steep price of admission, the people who show up tend to be invested in what speakers have to say.
The good news is there are a lot of these opportunities in the U.S. and abroad (here are just some of the many industry events taking place in 2023). The bad news is almost every event has a unique application and submission requirements, which makes casting a wide net challenging. (Pro tip: It is actually prudent to be selective about the in-person events you participate in because travel and accommodation expenses can really add up, not to mention application fees and time spent on proposals.)
Once you’ve secured a stellar speaking engagement, you should keep an eye out for additional opportunities to engage with event-goers. Often speakers are invited to present a poster on the showroom floor, attend a networking event, host a fireside chat, and more. These are all great ways to maximize an event in person.
3. Create thought leadership
“Thought leadership” is a term that gets thrown around a lot, especially in competitive markets, but what does it actually mean? “Thought leaders” are industry experts with unique perspectives that are both highly informed and innovative. Popular ways to disseminate these prowess-producing hot takes include op-eds, bylines, research, reports, and white papers. These are essentially long-form products that establish, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you really know your stuff (in other words, this is not the realm of hacks or AI – this calls for an agency that specializes in public relations for sustainability and clean energy).
What makes thought leadership so coveted is also what makes it so difficult to attain: it requires a lot of hard work paired with a healthy dose of risk. Being a thought leader, by definition, requires a following. And no one wants to follow someone who hasn’t put in the (wo)man-hours needed to formulate a truly fresh, exciting, and potentially game-changing idea.
Crafting thought leadership can be a challenge but it is by no means impossible. It helps to start with what you know intimately; the kind of topic that you hope to get called into court for as an expert witness. From there, explore, inquire, imagine, play, prod, and prospect.
Again, this process is easier said than done, but with proper guidance you can bring your one-of-a-kind perspective to life in a way that informs, inspires, and establishes you as a leader in your space.
4. Broadcast formal announcements
Whether you are a brand new climate tech company or an established solar developer you no doubt have exciting news to share. This is where press releases come into play. Maybe you just made your hundredth (or your second!) hire. Perhaps you successfully completed your largest project to date. Or maybe you just closed a massive Series B funding. All of these are newsworthy examples that may warrant a formal press release. Press releases are relatively short, concise announcements that outline the key facts and often feature a quote or two from key stakeholders. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, then there is the trick of actually getting your press release picked up and consumed.
One way to increase the circulation of a release is to send it out on a news wire. A wire is essentially a press release feed that distributes releases (often for a fee) to subscribing journalists and outlets. Depending on your budget, major wires might be out of reach. If so, another option is to pitch journalists and outlets directly. While this is technically free of charge, it can be quite time-consuming (and occasionally a bit disheartening). Journalists are constantly being pitched everything from fully written releases to partially conceived article concepts, which makes for a very crowded and competitive inbox.
Rather than mass emailing every reporter and outlet you can find a contact for, it is wise to strategically select those that might truly be interested in sharing your story and then work to nurture those relationships. Again, this doesn’t happen overnight, and if you are a smaller cleantech company you may not have a designated staff member with the bandwidth required to build rapport with journalists. This is when calling on external support from professionals who already have established relationships with reporters may be your best bet.
How DG+Design can help
All of the strategies mentioned in this article could be managed in-house by a dedicated communications employee. However, in our experience, many cleantech and climate tech companies don’t have the budget for a full-time comms person because they are focused on hiring for other roles. That’s where DG+ comes in. We offer all of the solutions listed above and more. With DG+, you can tap into a full-stack marketing and communications agency that uniquely specializes in clean energy, cleantech, and sustainability for (likely) less than it would cost to hire a new full-time team member.
If you’ve ever kicked yourself for missing the deadline for the perfect speaking engagement or fixated on a blank document that you wished would magically transform into a press release, DG+ is here to help.
Feel free to contact us using the form below to discuss your communications needs. We look forward to supporting your ongoing growth.