The Strategic Use of Cleantech PRDavid Andrew Goldman | Monday, April 23rd, 2012 | No Comments »
A prospective client recently contacted me after reading an article I wrote, “Debunking Myths of Cleantech PR.” We had a great conversation and he told me about his cleantech company – more than three years old, some partnerships in place, some impressive news coverage from about 6 months ago. All in all they seem like a perfect candidate for my agency to take on.
Ah…if only new business were that easy…this prospective client, let’s call him Gary told me he has been managing external communications until now in-house with a degree of success. While Gary wanted to bring a PR firm on board to work with his cleantech company, he expected resistance from the company’s board. This is a fairly familiar scenario these days — particularly in the cleantech world, where the money has gotten much tighter and the runways to profitability continue to be fairly long.
Here is what Gary wrote:
“The pushback I expect to receive is that exposure and raising profile is only good if we know what to do with it / convert it. I suppose my question is how would engaging with [The] Cline [Group] help us along the path after the splash? For instance, are you practiced in helping to grow a cleantech start-up? If so, would you be involved in strategy that helps us to connect the dots from a ‘splash’ to execution?”
Now I like Gary. From what I can tell he likes me and we could probably do great things together and bring a lot of attention to his company. But his company’s board (who pay the bills) has a valid question here. Let’s say I do get them onto the front page of the business section of The New York Times, as I have before for another client. If his company isn’t in a position to convert all that media attention, all those precious backlinks and credibility into more business – was it worth the added expense?
And further, is there a way that PR can help a cleantech start-up grow beyond messaging, pitching, media training? Can PR expand your visibility with industry analyst and the investment community? Yes.
Cleantech case in point
In the past I had a client that had a very cool remediation and resource-recovery technology. They not only cleaned wastewater effluent beyond EPA standards but could also recapture valuable materials usually lost during the manufacturing process. The company had a broad range of industries that they offered their solution to – which made our job particularly challenging. They wanted to target food and beverage manufacturing, airports, solar panel manufacturers, furniture and bicycle manufacturers and others.
This client wasn’t interested in getting in front of millions of people with a bullhorn. On the contrary, when we started working together their President told me he only cared about reaching approximately 2,500 people…on the planet! They wanted to focus PR efforts so that publicity translated into sales, at the very least – leads. That makes sense. I don’t fault any company today, cleantech or otherwise for looking a bit deeper when determining ROI of their marketing budget. Today, many start-ups understand how to use a marketing firm like The Cline Group not to increase visibility, become thought leaders in their space and attract investors.
Focus on niche targets
To address the concerns of this client, what we did was add a new layer to the program. We would still get them coverage in mainstream press like this New York Times article about one of their programs in Jamaica Bay, NY. In addition we worked with the president of the company to author several by-lined articles which we pitched and placed only in publications that we knew their customers were reading. The results, according to our client were terrific and most importantly they yielded true sales leads. In an industry like public relations, ROI isn’t always a simple calculus (is that an oxymoron?). We know that an article in a major publication like the Times does a lot for a company – it demonstrates credibility, objective and positive feedback and in general makes investors, customers and partners feel good about signing a contract with our clients. We know this. But in this economy, sometimes you have to use the power of PR in a more focused way that does translate more directly into new business.
Instead, we decided to look at each market that this client was focusing their sales team on and to turn case studies into coverage that in turn led to more leads for sales.
Just to share a few examples, here are some of the by-lined articles I discussed:
The needs of cleantech companies are different than technology companies. When the goal isn’t to get more than one million downloads but instead to convince someone to buy millions of dollars worth of equipment, the marketing strategy should support that effort.