A Guide for Effective Public Relations Tactics for the Energy Transition
Today’s media landscape is an ever-shifting body of information, platforms, and strategies, all set on achieving the most eyeballs on a piece of content. Marketing and C-suite professionals who keep their tactics fresh and nimble can increase their chances of gaining the media coverage they think their companies deserve.
At Technica Communications, we analyzed the tactics and methods our clients took advantage of (or passed on) to evaluate what is working in today’s media landscape. While these tactics were applied to companies within the energy transition, such as renewable energy, electric vehicles, hydrogen, energy storage, and micro-mobility, they can also be used broadly.
These tips aren’t about the best day and time to pitch reporters or how long the pitch should be—you can go to Muck Rack’s State of Journalism report for that. (TL;DR Mondays before noon ET, and under 200 words.) For more specifics, here are our top tips from the past year on how to supercharge your PR efforts as the energy transition gains momentum.
Facilitate facetime with the C-Suite
In most companies, the CEO sets the vision, and the Head of Sales understands intimately why customers sign and blockers they have. A PR team unaware of how these two roles think about the company and its offerings will always be one step behind and out of touch. When strategies and messages are filtered through too many people at the company, you risk diluting key messages and misinterpreting announcement priorities from company leaders. As a result, the PR team will have a more difficult time providing specific strategies and creative ideas that could help support the company’s business goals. Being out of sync with the leadership’s points of view on the industry and market also increases the difficulty of gaining the interest in the press about the company related to current events that go beyond a press announcement.
TAKEAWAY > Ensure your CEO and Head of Sales, at least, interact with the PR team at regular intervals. If there are other leaders within the company with insights and vision that the media could pick up on, connect them with the PR team as well. Allow direct lines of communication; transparency is essential.
Time Is a Tremendous Ally
Newsrooms are historically understaffed, and post-COVID, many have not rehired the staff they shed to weather the economic storm. Understanding and respecting the confines of newsroom time constraints, preferred workflows, and timetables are essential to the success of an announcement. Companies (even with well-known brands) who are arrogant enough to think that a reporter will drop everything to cover their news as if they were Tesla are likely to find themselves disappointed. The days of pitching reporters AFTER a release has gone live for coverage are long gone.
Often reporters may be working on multiple stories at once and need time to consider your news for publication. Additionally, the more generalist the writer or more prestigious the outlet, the more apprehensive a reporter might feel about covering technology or a topic they do not feel expert in. If you give them time to consider the technology thoughtfully, the higher likelihood they will say yes. The less time, the easier it is to say no.
The time to pitch reporters is contingent on your approval process. The more those team members in your approval chain fail to adhere to timelines, and the less you communicate your timeline expectations with third parties, the harder it will be for you to protect pitching time.
TAKEAWAY > Give trade reporters three days’ heads up at minimum on a pending news announcement. For business and Tier 1 press, a minimum of five days to two weeks is recommended. These timeframes can make your pre-pitches and exclusive offers more effective.
Additionally, establish reasonable deadlines for third parties to participate and sign-off on the release, leaving enough time to finalize messages.
Concentrate Your Content
Trying to say everything in one announcement can muddle the message and confuse the reader—especially a reporter. If you may have a lot of news to share, it’s better to separate your announcements into separate topics and space them out to give reporters some breathing room between releases. The last thing you want is a reporter thinking, “we just covered them; I’ll pass on this one.” Spacing out your announcements allows for each release to gain the media attention it deserves.
TAKEAWAY > Allow for at least two to four weeks between press announcements. This strategy can leave enough time for conversations ahead of the publication date to secure coverage with reporters. If you have more news to put out, alternate high-value news with low-value announcements, so when reporters do pass, it’s on the items that were less worthy of coverage anyway.
Leverage Media Alerts for In-Person Events
It’s always been a challenge to get a reporter to leave their desk or a producer to send a news crew to an in-person event. Now, with COVID, it’s even more difficult. This is because attending an event can be a three-hour activity when travel time is factored in. That’s enough time to write a story or two.
Remember that reporters are also most likely working from home. If the event is interesting or exciting enough for their coverage area, they will make an effort to show up—if they have a quick reference of what they can expect from the event. That’s where the media alert comes in.
TAKEAWAY > To improve your chances of the media attending your event, more than a press release is needed. Media alerts are still the tried and true way for gaining an editor’s attention. If your PR team recommends it, go with it. Most reporters require several days to one week’s notice to attend events.
Further, leverage event partners to enhance media attendance. The more name-brand or marquee names and company names in attendance, the more likely the media will attend, resulting in coverage.
Concentrate on the Customer
Journalists want proof of your claims, and not from you—your words, while helpful to a story, hold a conflict of interest. However, third-party results quotes and testimonials from customers (especially household brands) go a long way in delivering credibility. Plus, the reporter now has an outside source to incorporate into a story—making their pitch to the editor that much stronger.
The BYOC—Bring Your Own Customer model of media coverage started with the utility trades. It’s since expanded to all energy, IT, and transportation press. This model is a good thing for the industry. It means that the market has matured beyond the “cool new technology” story and towards implementation. Companies that highlight their customers beyond the “new customer” announcement, such as new product announcements, are more likely to grab a reporter’s attention.
TAKEAWAY > Incorporate a quote from a customer or explain how you work with customers in news announcements. If you can, highlight case study metrics or expected results in the new customer announcements to help them communicate a more concrete message.
“Where” Still Matters
With all the working from home, we didn’t lose the “where” in the five W’s (who, what, where, when, and why). To make your coverage more exciting and relatable, make sure that your press releases include specific information about the locations of corporate offices and operations. Announcements that are too vague run the risk of insulting reporters by wasting their time and harming the reputations of both the company and the PR team.
Additionally, local angles can spark interest with local outlets, and you never know when a reporter or blogger might be living and working nearby.
TAKEAWAY > Location is a huge part of whether or not a piece of news is relevant, so always include this information if possible. If it’s not possible, consider a blog post instead, without pitching it to press.
Media Coverage Is Fuel for Social Media, Sales and Recruiting Efforts
The eyeballs that find your media coverage in various outlets are only a portion of your potential audience, and it’s one you cannot communicate directly with. However, social media, and other content marketing tactics, such as newsletters, are your direct channels to the people who value your brand the most. Promote your media wins with them and build even larger followings. Additionally, communicate these wins with your employees, including your sales teams and recruiting departments. These groups can leverage the coverage in their own activities and make those efforts more effective.
TAKEAWAY > Post your earned media on social feeds, and add them to newsletters and circulate them with employees. Encourage employees to post the news on their feeds as well. Use your media wins to refresh the content on your homepage to force Web bots to recategorize it. Use photos and even the media outlets’ logos to make the content more engaging. Explain to sales teams how they can use the media mention to start conversations with prospects.
Respect the Relationship
As always, building relationships is still the best avenue to gaining coverage for clients. Additionally, reporters need reliable, credible information more than ever before – especially the more prestigious the outlet. The energy transition is moving so fast that it’s hard for even experts to keep up, let alone reporters who are one step removed from the latest developments. Overall, the press covering this space are looking for reliable, credible, trustworthy news from companies and PR professionals who have proven their worth. Building and maintaining relationships with reporters who know you will give them the straight story is paramount.
There exist many opportunities to share your news and messages. However, there are just as many ways to miss opportunities, mainly from a lack of planning or a loss of time. The media will always need fresh, credible sources to “feed the beast.” Your company could be the next source to make their headlines—if you give them a chance to consider you.
Make it clear, make it timely, make it count: here’s to successful media relations.
Adapted for PR News
Lisa Ann Pinkerton is founder and CEO of the award-winning Technica Communications, founder and Chairwoman of the non-profit Women In Cleantech & Sustainability, an international speaker, moderator, and documentary filmmaker. She was named a PR Executive of the Year by the American Business Awards (2020), Female Entrepreneur of the Year for Advertising and Marketing by the Women in Business and the Professions World Awards (2020), and a Woman of Influence by the Silicon Valley Business Journal (2017). She got her start as a public broadcast journalist covering environmental science for PBS and NPR in 2001.