Sustainability PR: 5 tips from COP26

COP26 has elevated the media coverage around the climate crisis to new heights with consumers and business leaders alike turning to the press as their trusted source of environmental information. Recent statistics from Reuters and the University of Oxford showed that television ranked as the most influential source of climate change news for consumers, followed by online news and specialised outlets dedicated solely to climate issues.

As well as broadcast and online news outlets, social media has played a significant role educating the public about the ongoing impact of climate change, raising awareness of environmental issues by 30% since the outset of the pandemic.

This increased awareness has also translated in to buyer behaviour with 79% of consumers in a recent BBC study stating that sustainable practices and commitments are an important consideration when making purchase decisions.

COP26 has provided some insightful lessons on the dos and don’ts of sustainability PR but what exactly can organisations learn from the conference and how exactly can brands get journalists to write about their sustainable business in such a competitive environment?

Hijacking the news agenda:
The media coverage around the climate crisis has been constant in recent weeks with around-the-clock news stories focusing on the COP26 climate conference. As mentioned earlier in this article broadcast and online news outlets are leading the way when it comes to consumption of climate related news and the volume of stories being shared by these outlets, has created a real clamour for commentary from experts who can provide different perspectives and analysis on breaking news.

For sustainability PR teams, this demand presents a huge opportunity to insert your business into the discussion around climate change and ensure your brand and its messages are being featured in key slots in opinion-forming media. Having the right journalist relationships is vital when trying to secure coverage like this, as it has the potential to successfully establish your business as a leading authority on the challenges facing your sector, significantly building trust among your key stakeholders.

We worked with renewable energy supplier, Octopus Energy for over three years and successfully established CEO Greg Jackson as the go-to media commentator on the energy sector, achieving more than 700 pieces of coverage in just 12 months. You can read more about our campaign here.

Communicating your growth:
With so many businesses vying for share-of-voice, an effective way for sustainability PR teams to secure coverage in respected media outlets is to share news and statistics about your growth as a business. Providing media contacts with information on key growth milestones such as any recent investment is a powerful tool to attract a journalist’s attention. The news stories that follow have the potential to significantly enhance your corporate reputation.

Rather than simply issuing a press release, using announcements like these as a hook to offer interview opportunities with key spokespeople can open the door to longer-form articles. These pieces provide a platform to communicate your key messages as a business as well as educating your key audiences about your mission and sustainability credentials.

We recently worked with vertical farming client Intelligent Growth Solutions to announce their Series B fundraise. Our campaign secured more than 20 pieces of coverage throughout the COP26 conference including the FT’s Sifted and an interview with CEO David Farquhar on Sky News.

Executive thought leadership:
Long-form opinion pieces or ‘thought leadership’ articles are another effective way of communicating your business’ USPs, raising awareness of the problem you are solving and educating stakeholders about your value proposition. The traditionally lengthier and more in-depth nature of thought leadership pieces provides an opportunity to not only showcase your expertise on climate-related issues but also educate audiences about emerging technologies where awareness is low, but misconceptions are aplenty. Hydrogen energy and heat pumps are two current examples that could benefit from a concerted sustainability PR and thought leadership campaign.

As well as placing these articles in national and trade media, LinkedIn can be an effective platform. Leveraging personal social media profiles can generate stronger engagement rates compared to business pages. Utilising the personal channels of senior figures within your business has immense potential with statistics showing that 81% of C-Suite users have greater trust in content that is shared by connections they deem to be fellow thought leaders.

Read more here about the value of C-suite profiling as part of your social media strategy.

Publishing climate data:
In recent years, the popularity of data-led journalism has grown exponentially as publications seek to quantify the issues they’re reporting on and provide context for the stories they’re writing about.

Within the world of sustainability PR this appetite for data presents an array of potential opportunities. One tactic many businesses have employed successfully is sharing data on future industry trends. Whether this insight has been produced through analysis of internal data, combing through external sources or a third-party research survey, sharing predictions on what the future could look like not only affirms your expertise as a business, but it also creates ‘news’ when there may not have been any previously.

Another tactic businesses can use to validate the work they’re doing is through providing quantifiable, real-life examples of where they have delivered change. Any data that you can share as a business regarding carbon reductions you have made or savings your solution has made for your customers can help engage the media and substantiate your value proposition.

Use the right influencers:
With social media having such a significant impact on consumer awareness of sustainability issues it is vital that direct-to-consumer (D2C) and eCommerce focused brands consider social as part of their marketing strategy.

Influencers are an effective way of entering this conversation and selecting the right influencers to represent your business is key. Understanding an influencer’s values and those of their followers is a must to create authentic content that will drive behavioural change from your target audiences.

We incorporated influencers as part of our strategy for launching the world’s first zero waste beauty brand Ethique. We engaged with relevant influencers in the beauty, vegan and sustainability spaces to tap into their online communities and build targeted brand awareness for Ethique promoting their sustainability mission. Our activity led to several influencers endorsing the brand on their social media channels leading to almost 4,500 clicks through to the brand’s website.

Click here to read our Ethique case study.

If you’d be interested in learning more about our experience in the sustainability sector you can read more here.

If you’d like to discuss how we could support your sustainable business, why not get in touch today.

Get in touch with the team