Cleantech Public Relations Tips

Cleantech public relations graphic design sample

We count ourselves lucky to support climate and energy innovators with cleantech public relations.  

But, no matter how ground-breaking an innovator’s solution is, it doesn’t mean anything if their target customer doesn’t know about them or how they can benefit from their tech.   

Here are some tips to ensure a successful cleantech public relations program:

Top Cleantech Public Relations Tips for Success

1. Understand how you fit in the marketplace  

Sustainability solutions are coming to market, and they’re coming fast – thankfully.  

But this means that at the top of your cleantech company’s to-do-list is being perfectly clear about your position in the broader marketplace.   

Just take a look at the number of electric fleet innovations, battery storage companies, solar and wind power producers and the multiple software solutions coming to market to optimize them all.  

In a growing sea of competitors, it’s crucial to differentiate yourself and communicate your unique value proposition right out of the gate. 

 

Where to start: 

Cleantech companies must think broadly about who their real competitors are. You may be competing against more alternatives than you realize.  

Take Uber, for example. It’s easy to think of Uber’s competitors as just Lyft and taxi services. But even as Uber was spearheading the ride-sharing wave, it had to compete against taxis, walking, biking, or just driving yourself. Then came other last-mile solutions like electric scooters, Car2Go and more. Uber and Lyft both jumped into the electric scooter space quickly.  

Whether you’re a new cleantech solution, a long-established company branching into more sustainable solutions or a global business entering a new geographic market, start by zooming out to see the big picture and determine where and how you can stand out.  

With the growth in cleantech innovation, your competition may not be fossil fuels, internal combustion engines or traditional power sources. You may need to position yourself against other new or emerging climate technologies. 

So, start at the 50,000-foot view first, decide where you should fit before you focus your brand messaging and its specific value and contributions.  

Good cleantech public relations will start with a true understanding of your business stands in the existing cleantech landscape.  

RELATED: Cleantech Public Relations Example

Here’s some media coverage we helped our client partner, a battery storage company, get. It’s a great example of a brand who understands their local marketplace, brand position and story: 

2. Build a strong platform before you launch.  

A strong brand is the platform you need to support your clean tech public relations. 

Are you a game-changer or shape-shifter? Having strong, purpose-driven convictions at the heart of your story is really important. You want to avoid coming to market with a brand story that continually pivots as you chase customers or investors. That just creates confusion and never gives your brand a chance to stick. 

 

Where to start: 

Assess your strengths so your messaging can amplify them and address your weaknesses to mitigate them before turning your attention outward and inviting the world’s attention.  

 

Questions cleantech brands should ask themselves:

Once your brand messaging is developed, is a content strategy in place so that you have a clear search engine position for the solution you want to be known for? Is your social media engagement building some momentum and community around your ideas and your technology to demonstrate that people care?   

Before you go out to media and customers, you must make sure you and your team have that brand platform in place including core messaging that aligns with and promotes your world view matched with discoverable digital content and amplified by active social channels.  

 

 

RELATED: Learn about our cleantech public relation services HERE.

 

 

3. Don’t overpromise—show, don’t tell 

 

Climate technologies, by their very nature, are expected to change the world and do need to be disruptive to old practices or technologies. But rather than making grandiose claims of revolutionizing the world, it’s wiser to let your portfolio or outcomes speak for itself.  

 

 

The main goal: 

Under-promise and over-deliver. This is an industry with a lot of noise and skepticism is rife.   

For instance, say you’re introducing a new home-heating system that uses renewable energy and decreases heating costs by 5%. Will you market on the fact that your tech will change how homes are heated forever, that it’s 5% cheaper or some combination of both?   

When your cleantech public relations strategy leads with the cost-savings message and provides your green cred for context, your brand will more likely stay afloat, sell product and avoid drowning in the sea of hyperbole in this industry.  

In other words, your sustainable business model is as essential to your cleantech public relations program as your environmental impact.  

 

 

4. Adapt your story to meet media needs  

 

Be prepared for your media interviews. At some point in your company’s evolution, and if you’re fortunate enough, you’ll be sitting down with many different journalists.   

 

How to prepare: 

Be aware of who you’re speaking with and the audience they represent so that you can adapt your responses.  

Some trade media are very knowledgeable about clean technologies, but daily news reporters may not be. So, don’t just start talking.  

Read our best media training tips. A good understanding of your interviewer’s credentials and a well-developed plan of action for your interview will help you effectively communicate no matter who sits in the other seat.  

 

 

What to do if your solution is too complex: 

Start all of your interviews by asking the reporter what they already know about your subject. Ideally, your cleantech public relations team will have fully briefed you or your spokesperson on the reporter’s area of interest and knowledge level. But you would be amazed at how many technology executives jump directly into the weeds and speak a mile a minute about their solutions. Best rule? Just ask.  

That way, you can provide the right amount of context or background to ensure the reporter grasps the problem your solution addresses and how it does it so brilliantly.  

You’d be surprised sometimes how little a reporter might know about cleantech, and if you’re not careful, you’ll be talking over their head and then be unhappy with the published result.   

 

 

Why it’s important to ask questions first: 

You might be tired of repeating the same datapoints or explanations in media interviews and feel like it’s old news and that everybody’s on the same page as you. They’re not!   

You’ve got to assess your audience’s knowledge and interest and then meet them where they are.  

Asking those probing questions first – or having your cleantech public relations agency do it for you as part of your pre-interview briefing – is always a sound practice!  

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Julie Wright is President of (W)right On Communications, Inc., the award-winning integrated strategic communications firm she founded in 1998. With offices in San Diego, Los Angeles, and Vancouver, B.C., her team handles complex communications challenges for B2B tech, cleantech and energy, healthcare, tourism and hospitality, not-for-profit and public sector organizations. Wright and her team elevate the agency experience through data-driven insights and measurable results for client partners.

Rediscover the Lost Art of Conversation

For us communicators at (W)right On, it’s essential we understand and practice the art of conversation. It’s in part why we recently hosted a PRSA seminar on networking skills for industry up-and-comers, and on March 28th as part of The Next 25 series celebrating our 25th Anniversary will be hosting a panel of world-class tourism and travel industry experts to talk about the Future of Sustainable Tourism. Being both in-person at our San Diego headquarters and broadcast live online, it will be another great opportunity to put our conversational skills into practice. 

Shown in Celeste Headlee’s interesting TED talk, it’s apparent that fewer and fewer of the younger generation are developing and exercising this skill. Imagine if the 1/3 of teens who send more than 100 texts per day instead worked on their conversational skills: they’d be better prepared for the dating scene, career opportunities and so much more. As Harvard University’s David Deming points out, “high-skilled, difficult to automate jobs increasingly require social skills.” In fact, surveys have for decades highlighted the importance of soft skills – such as oral communication; teamwork/collaboration; professionalism/work ethic; written communications; and critical thinking/problem solving – that are increasingly hard to come by.

Becoming an older person myself, I wrestle with this issue. On the one hand, it seems to me we need to learn – and teach – oral conversation skills for the numerous good reasons just noted. On the other hand, the tidal wave of alternate communication like texts, tweets, SnapChats and Instagram, TikTok and Facebook posts, to say nothing of the evolving immersive world, cannot be ignored. Communication evolves, and so must we all. So is the latter the new reality, with the art of conversation destined to a fading past? I think not.

At (W)right On, we deeply understand the importance of relationships in just about all endeavors. And at the heart of every developing and flourishing relationship is conversation. When we provide presentation training, media training, a social media program, and just about everything else we do, at the core of each is conversation. So while Celeste focuses on tips for conversations while you’re in them at networking events, say, I offer these thoughts as to how to get in – and out – of them.

  1. Go for it– Relax and let go of your fear, since there’s always something you can use to start a conversation. Ask a question, whether it’s for help, an opinion or advice. Make a provocative statement, or muse about a hypothetical situation. Noticing something about the other person (not too personal) or a mutual friend will usually pique their interest to talk with you. Having some topics in mind beforehand will let your subconscience be doing some prep work for you.
  2. Be aware of timing– Catching someone with their mouth full or clearly with one foot out the door is likely to be unproductive. But noticing and approaching someone by themselves in a crowded room will usually be met with appreciation.
  3. Embrace diversity– Conversations are more interesting if they’re with someone less like yourself. To switch things up, avoid the ‘comfort zone’ with your clone, and instead seek to converse with someone who knows things you don’t, be it a younger or older person or someone from another culture, societal background and/or education type and level. You’re less likely to find yourself drawing blanks since differences and new information are inherently more interesting than consistent agreement.
  4. Exit gracefully– Too much of a good thing can be just that, so it’s important to know when to move on gracefully. If needed, you can use a common reason (‘have to get back to…’, ‘connect with [person] before they leave’, ‘take this call/text I’ve been waiting for’, etc). If needed, you can also pull someone else into the conversation to tactfully take over for you. If you’re there with a colleague, you may even have a pre-arranged cue to help you guard your time. In any case, listen for the natural transition, keep the ending on a positive note and recap follow-up actions (so that it’s not so much a ‘good bye’ as it is a pause in the conversation to be picked up later).

The art of conversation is just that: an art. Though some seem to possess the gift of gab, it really isn’t something genetically programmed within a certain few. Great conversation skills must be taught, role modeled and ultimately learned and kept sharp. Like many skills, becoming good at communicating is as much about attitude and willingness to put in the effort as it is about technique – if you continue to work hard and develop your abilities, before too long it becomes effortless.

This post is updated from an earlier version published in 2016.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Grant Wright is CEO of (W)right On Communications, Inc., the award-winning integrated strategic communications firm founded in 1998. With offices in San Diego, Los Angeles, and Vancouver, B.C., his team handles complex communications challenges for B2B tech, cleantech and energy, healthcare, tourism and hospitality, not-for-profit and public sector organizations. Wright and his team elevate the agency experience through data-driven insights and measurable results for client partners.

Four PR Trends for 2023

When you advise innovators, change makers and industry leaders every day, it’s expected that you’re also keeping a finger or two on the pulse of shifting trends in business, public relations, and media. It’s our job to help client partners understand current trends, spot future trends, and make the most of them.

So, what are we ready to make the most of in 2023?

1. Immersive Storytelling and the Metaverse

Meta and Mark Zuckerberg have bet big on the Metaverse. Other companies are also investing heavily in virtual reality hardware, software, and immersive environments. They’re holding virtual meetings and gatherings, conducting onboarding and employee training, and building culture and community with virtual celebrations and shared experiences across time zones.

McKinsey reports $120 billion in venture capital, private equity, and corporate investment in the Metaverse during the first five months of 2022, and that by 2030, the consumer and enterprise value of the Metaverse may be equal to Japan’s economic output.

While immersive environments are perfectly suited for gaming and entertainment, all brands can and should stake their claim and build their brand presence in immersive environments like Horizon Worlds, The Sandbox and Decentraland. There’s an advantage to being an early adopter.

The Metaverse today reminds me of social networks in 2007. The numbers weren’t big enough for brands to dive in in large numbers, but if you parked your brand’s handle on Twitter and started experimenting with early content and conversations, you were able to grow and prosper as those platforms began to take off. Those who were late to the party had to work much harder to attract followers and build communities.

Immersive environments allow people to experience your story directly. What if you could take your ideal trade show booth, retail location, classroom, pop-up experience or other environment and untether it from time, geography, or the laws of physics? Imagine those possibilities.

While pondering what kind of out-of-this-world space you’d create, it’s worth noting that virtual experiences also lend themselves to highly serious uses.

Military medicine uses VR to counteract PTSD triggers. A museum exhibit places patrons on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to experience history first hand as Martin Luther King delivers his “I Have a Dream” speech. How could your mission or purpose be better fulfilled if time and place could be transcended through immersive storytelling?

Getting started in the Metaverse does not need to be expensive as many platforms and tools that can be adapted and customized to get your brand out there. It will not get less costly as tools improve and people’s expectations rise. (Right now, it’s okay to have avatars with no legs, for instance, but even that will soon be a thing of the past.)

Our 2022 trade show booth for XCOM Labs allowed immersive VR experiences.

Last year, (W)right On Communications designed a creative, branded trade show booth for our client partner XCOM Labs where attendees could experience a range of different simulations and trainings. The booth featured XCOM’s wireless extended reality (or XR) system which is an infrastructure solution for companies seeking the highest quality VR or mixed reality experiences. It has no wires and little to no latency in the network and supports multiple users moving through the environment. We’ve experienced the system a few times and it is always very comfortable and lifelike.

Over the past several months, I also completed the Institute for Public Relations Masterclass in Immersive Storytelling. This series features companies, creative studios and consultancies developing augmented reality, virtual reality and other extended reality experiences and solutions.

As part of (W)right On’s 25th anniversary year celebration, we’re planning an event to share some of our immersive storytelling knowledge and experience with our client partners and agency friends. Keep an eye out for details!

2. Artificial Intelligence Becomes the Writer’s Best Friend

Some readers may not want to hear this, but artificial intelligence is going mainstream in 2023. The great news is that communicators will save a ton of time this year if we task a tool like ChatGPT or Jasper.AI with our first drafts.

These tools require a very short learning curve. My best advice is to jump in and experiment. For now, you create a free ChatGPT profile that does more than chats. It can generate social posts, blog posts, news articles, press releases, web pages, emails, memos and more. It will render the content in a blink so that you can spend your time making the second draft more interesting, entertaining or informative.

It would be foolish not to use these tools to generate a passable first draft. However, they’re not yet a replacement for the human element – humor, color commentary, metaphors, tone.

ChatGPT was launched by OpenAI for free, for a limited time, on November 30 to test and get feedback from users. I asked ChatGPT to draft me a paragraph about OpenAI’s goals:

“The goal of the ChatGPT model is to provide a human-like conversational experience through the use of natural language processing (NLP) techniques. The model is based on the GPT (Generative Pre-training Transformer) architecture, which has been shown to be very effective in generating human-like text. By fine-tuning the model on conversational data, ChatGPT aims to generate responses that are contextually relevant, fluent, and appropriate for the given conversation. This can be used to power chatbots, virtual assistants, and other conversational AI applications. The overall goal is to enable more natural and efficient communication between humans and computers.”

I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

3. Uncertainty Everywhere All the Time

I learned a new word in 2022- and I think it’s here to stay: VUCA.

It stands for volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Get used to it. It’s a VUCA world. Economically, geopolitically, medically (physical and mental health) and environmentally—no one knows what happens next. Not exactly fun, but something strategic communicators need to accept and mitigate.

How do savvy brands and their comms teams navigate a VUCA world? Back in early 2020- as the pandemic was first impacting the U.S., we wrote about applying the classic five stages of grief to crisis communications. This advice stands in a VUCA world. But let’s add to it:

• Change is coming at people faster than they can cope.
• Allow your stakeholders time to process big news or changes.
• Be a source of analysis to help bring perspective and context to big or rapid changes.
• Create feedback mechanisms so that people experiencing change can process their thoughts and feelings productively and so that you and your team can monitor your stakeholders’ thoughts and feelings and adjust messages or methods as needed.
• Manage expectations and don’t overpromise. Let people know what to realistically expect next, even if you’re unclear on what exactly happens next (like in a winter ice storm a few days before Christmas that overwhelms an airline’s scheduling software leading to unprecedented cancellations). You can at least tell stakeholders when they can expect to get the next update rather than feel you need to make a promise you can’t meet or exceed!
• Don’t use your communications to add to the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, or ambiguity.

When people are left to guess or second guess their trusted institutions, they’re no longer trusted. We all know that polarization and distrust in traditional institutions have soared. People are filling the VUCA vacuum with conspiracy theories. Which give them something to believe in and, while outlandish, people prefer to believe the conspiracy theory over the complex and ambiguous truth.

4. Enchanting Narratives: Give People Something Worth Believing In

Storytelling is a natural construct that creates characters, tension, and a suspense. Good stories are interesting- as they transport the listener, reader, or viewer. We’ve all got to get better at storytelling in 2023 and beyond and give people stories that are worth believing in.

Earlier this year, I read “The Enchanted Brand,” a book by accomplished brand strategist Jane Cavalier who makes a compelling case that people are seeking a bit of “enchantment” in this confuzzling VUCA world.

Take the Netflix series “Stranger Things.” I loved its third season. If you loved it too, you’ll understand this analysis completely. In all three seasons, the Upside Down is the malevolent world that the show’s characters get sucked into. It’s a very VUCA place. In season three, the Upside Down becomes personified in Vecna, an evil overlord who breaks and takes kids when they’re isolated and alone. He’s terrifying and powerful. I had no idea how Max would ever escape his clutches when he came for her.

As it turns out, that the way to safety in “Stranger Things” season three was enchantment. The kids just had to play Max’s favorite song to give her the strength to escape Vecna’s pull. (Cue Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill.”) That song plus the love of her best friends pulls her from his clutches.

During turbulent times, strategic communicators must engage the imagination and help people transcend the VUCA world that, like Vecna in “Stranger Things,” keeps poking their flight-or-fight instinct.

So, how can your organization be enchanting?

• What’s its origin story? Is there a story arc and characters in your humble beginnings that is inspiring or relatable? Did you recently overcome a big challenge or help your employees or customers overcome one?
• How can your brand purpose enchant? Are you bringing it to life through employee or customer storytelling or are you creating magical moments that bring it to life, then capture and share those with employees and customers?
• How can your brand inspire and elevate employees, customers, and investors so they feel more emotionally connected and have a reason to believe in you that transcends their daily realities, fears, and frustrations?

I’m a fan of Alaska Airlines, and this winter they partnered with nonprofits in San Jose and San Diego to surprise some students with free flights who couldn’t afford to travel home for the holidays. The students’ heartfelt reactions were completely enchanting to me as I passed those videos on to two other people I know. This promotion is a great example of how to create and tell enchanting stories.

It also shows how storytelling starts with actions. Brands must start by walking the talk and being enchanting before talking about themselves that way. Word and deeds must always be in sync!

Going back to our number one 2023 trend, The Metaverse, it’s a perfect vehicle for enchanting your employees and customers. You can create fairy tale experiences and bring your brand to life in ways the real world won’t let you.

Speaking of the real world, our number three trend, VUCA as the new normal, also comes into play because enchanting storytelling is VUCA’s antidote. You might not want to entrust AI with formulating an enchanting story but you can task it with a solid first draft and then add your own magic.

Just remember in 2023 to bring a little enchantment into your PR, social media, and content as a clap back to the real-world Vecnas trying to bring us all down. And, if all else fails, keep running up that hill.

9 Things to Know About the Future of Local News

I recently spoke to a group of business and community leaders about the future of local news. As a public relations professional, I’ve had a ringside seat on the ever-shrinking local news landscape. However, many leaders I’ve worked with in the private and public sectors tend to over-estimate how much scrutiny their bad or good news may attract, while others dismiss the need to actively participate in local media interview requests and reserve their time and energies for national opportunities or what they know will be a puff piece.

My goal was to help these leaders understand the trends shaping the local media landscape so that they could better reach their constituents and stakeholders through earned media as well as via alternate approaches, given local media’s shrinking influence.

Here are nine fast facts with tips for business and organization leaders:

1. The Future of Local News Is Subscriptions, Not Advertising

Print and digital circulation numbers for local newspapers have been consistently falling (from 13.9 million to 8.3 million between 2015 and 2020), but stabilized in 2020. The decline has reduced ad revenue, disrupting the old advertising-driven publishing model.

Another trend started in 2020. For the first time, circulation revenue from subscriptions drove more revenue than both print and digital ad revenue for local print publications and their digital assets. That’s a commentary on how far ad revenue has fallen. And it’s why you’ve been seeing more online publications behind paywalls, as digital subscriptions are often called.

TIP: The Free Press is Worth Paying For.

→ Your organization’s news needs to be interesting enough for people to pay for. Focus on what’s in it for the reader or viewer. How are you helping serve the interests of local news consumers vs. the needs of your organization?

2. Future of Local News Will Serve the Informed Public

Fewer and fewer people are consuming local news across all sources. Only about one in three U.S. adults even follows local news at all.

For journalists and public relations agencies like (W)right On Communications, credibility and reach with the informed public (the one in three people paying attention) are still vital. If you’re a local news subscriber, then consider yourself a member of the informed public.

As someone who is more engaged in your community than most of your neighbors, you’re an important target of our communications and news reporting. You’re more likely to vote (hopefully), show up at city hall, trial or recommend new products and places and understand how your daily behaviors impact your environment.

As subscriptions become the backbone of the local news business, leaders can use earned media to target the most informed and engage constituents in their local markets.

TIP: Reach the Disengaged through Entertainment + Enchantment

→ If you can’t reach people with facts and information, entertain with emotion and be memorable with story. Find and share what makes your story moving and provide local media with assets (b-roll, photos, characters and heroes) to bring it to life.

3. The Future of Local News is Digital with Limited Reach

One of the steadfast rules of marketing is meeting your audience where they are. Current data suggests 84% of U.S. adults get their information from their digital device like smartphone, computer or tablet. Half do so often.

News websites and news apps were cited by two-thirds of adults. But 25% of people still rarely or never use such sources. This 25% also don’t use search engines or frankly any other digital source. They may be getting their information from social media, which recent studies have shown misinforms: people who relied on social media for their news were less engaged and less knowledgeable.

During the pandemic, this was a real problem. A very large number of people had no idea what was going on. You’d find people not wearing masks because they had no idea that there was a mask mandate and later had no idea when it had been lifted. Even when their family’s health and life are on the line, they’re not tuning in to the news of the day via any platform.

TIP: Share Your Coverage on Social and Boost

→ When you’ve got a news story you want everyone to see or read, share it on social and boost it with a small investment to the audience you might have missed.

4. The Future of Local News On Social is YouTube

Social media as a news source shrank a bit this past year. It’s still the third most used platform for news, cited by 48% of people as a frequent news source. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter were the three most popular networks for news.

For leaders considering reaching constituents and stakeholders with their news via social media, YouTube is a platform deserving of a second look. YouTube users stream news about subjects they’re interested in as they ‘cut the cord’ from their cable providers. As the second largest search engine (and owned by Google), YouTube provides “news” on an endless breadth of subjects on demand — from foreign language to gamer news to regular streaming newscasts and segments. Local TV news stations have their own YouTube stations.

TIP: Consider Producing Your Own YouTube News Content.

→ Seeing is believing and YouTube allows for longer format reporting that can be teased or promoted on other social apps like Instagram and Facebook Stories, Twitter, Snapchat or TikTok.

5. The Future of Local News is Podcasting

The percentage of people who get their news from podcasts is growing every so slightly every year. While a few people say that they never listen to podcasts, what’s noteworthy about those who do listen is that they skew younger. Sixty-two percent of 18 to 49-year-olds report listening to podcasts for news sometimes or often. And rates are also higher among more educated and affluent listeners.

Leaders need to make time for podcast interviews to reach younger, more education and affluent members of the informed public. Podcasts are a great channel to reach these important audiences.

TIP: Embrace Podcasts to Reach Younger, Affluent Audiences

→ Not only are podcast audiences growing, but podcast interviews have been discoverable on Google since 2019 and, unlike radio interviews, can have a reach that grows over time.

6. The Future of Local News Is Nonprofit

As local journalism gets vastly outspent by Big Tech, ad revenue shrinks and the size of the uninformed public grows, is it any wonder that a dozen new nonprofit newsrooms launch every year?

Nonprofit models remove the profit imperative and allow newsrooms to be funded through grants, donations and subscriptions or memberships. Some great reporting is coming out of nonprofit newsrooms.

Individual citizens can support local nonprofit news organizations through monthly contributions that are no more than a monthly subscription may run. Your local PBS affiliate has relied on donor support for decades.

TIP: Support a Nonprofit Local News Organization

→ Get involved as a donor or board member to help local nonprofit newsrooms flourish.

7. The Future of Local News is Greater Privacy Protections

Another major shift that’s just starting to be felt is Apple’s new privacy protections. When you’re online on IOS devices, Apple no longer allows advertisers to embed cookies and use their website pixels to track your behaviors and market their goods to you.

This has had an immediate and very significant impact on Facebook’s fortunes. Facebook took a $10 billion revenue hit as digital advertisers scaled back. It’s a positive development to me as a communicator because digital marketing had become so transactional. It’s a reminder to leaders not to focus on click-through rates at the expense of relationship and trust building.

TIP: Build Trust Through PR to Support Digital Transactions

→ Build trust and credibility through strategic communications before you ask for the sale. That’s the secret to higher closing rates. And your consumers are looking for trust and credibility signals before they buy.

8. The Future of Local News is User Generated

Technically, anyone with a camera-equipped smart phone is “the media” as well as anyone with an audience is “the media.” Influencers and eyewitness videos can shape opinions and drive awareness just as powerfully as a mainstream, top tier local media outlet.

Newsroom cutbacks mean journalists are more likely assigned to multiple beats and assignments every day. So, leaders cannot expect them to come into interviews with much knowledge or understanding and, therefore, must work hard to bring them up to speed so that they can accurately report on their news.

The right influencer or content creator with a niche following and deep familiarity and passion for your topic may move the needle with the people that matter more than highly respected and accomplished media outlets or journalists.

TIP: Find Niche Content Creators to Reach New Audiences

→ Find the right influencer or content creator to reach niche audiences with your messages. But be ready to pay for that content and access while also giving them control over how your story is packaged.

9. The Future of Local News is Building Trust

Released in January at Davos every year for the past 22 years, the Edelman Trust Barometer tracks trust in business, government, media and NGOs. This year’s theme was “A Cycle of Distrust” which the authors say was fueled by the government and media industries.

Democracy is built on trust. As government leaders vie for votes and media outlets vie for clicks and viewers, the public is left feeling anxious. They’re looking to NGOs and businesses to take the lead on societal issues. Like Apple did on privacy or like Nordstrom, Sephora and Macy’s did with the 15 Percent Pledge to make 15% of their retail shelf space available to black-owned brands. Other examples include the businesses that exited Russia after its invasion of Ukraine and Ernst and Young’s R U OK program to help employees with mental health and addiction issues.

At the World Economic Forum, the new rallying cry in response to this cycle of distrust has become an emphasis on a new model of Stakeholder Capitalism to replace decades of Shareholder Capitalism. Under the old model, the company was put at the center, and everything served the business. It was a profit-centered model. The new model puts the wellbeing of people and planet at the center of a business.

TIP: Restoring Trust Starts Locally.

→ From local news to city council to school boards, focus on restoring trust and respect in your backyard. A healthy local news media supports an informed and engaged public and a sense that we can trust our leaders to conduct themselves in the public’s best interests. 

→ Read my Q&A with Lynn Walsh of the Trusting News project to learn how the media is working to restore trust through more transparent reporting practices.

So, What Can You Do to Support Local Journalism and Break the Cycle of Distrust?

Subscribe to and support local news and nonprofit news. Encourage subscriptions amongst your coworkers, friends and family.

Professionally, take a more relational and less transactional approach to your communications. That means you start first with listening and understanding your stakeholders and their needs. Whether you’re reaching the informed public through the media or sharing your story through other means such as your website, email newsletter, social media, speaking opportunities, events or video, demonstrate empathy and frame and share stories in a way that matters to your stakeholders.

Most important, as a leader, make sure that your organization delivers on the expectations you set in your communications. That’s foundational to building trust.

Be realistic in the expectations you set. Be consistent in your communications and messages you deliver. Therefore, when things go wrong, your track record of empathy, transparency and consistency gives your brand or organization the best chance of an understanding and patient response from employees, customers, investors, donors and, of course, the media.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Julie Wright is President of (W)right On Communications, Inc., the award-winning integrated strategic communications firm she founded in 1998. With offices in San Diego, Los Angeles, and Vancouver, B.C., her team handles complex communications challenges for B2B tech, cleantech and energy, healthcare, tourism and hospitality, not-for-profit and public sector organizations. Wright and her team elevate the agency experience through data-driven insights and measurable results for client partners.

Four Reasons Publicist is a Dirty Word

 

By Julie Wright —President
Twitter: @juliewright


Has your mom ever used your childhood nickname in front of your adult friends? That’s how I feel when someone uses the term publicist or publicity to describe my work.

Generating positive media coverage is definitely among the many functions performed by a public relations professional. But the word “publicist” says nothing of the research, strategy, messaging and many other thoughtful, and even artful, activities that go into a successful public relations program. The word, in my opinion, minimizes my work.

For that reason, I would like to see “publicist” buried next to “flack” and “spin doctor.”

Public relations professionals are strategic communicators.

Two years ago, PRSA’s 2017 Chair, Jane Dvorak, addressed the PRSA Western District Conference in Riverside, Calif. urging attendees to see themselves as leaders, strategists and analysts. To my ear, “publicist” is a label that says none of those things. Two years later, I continue to hear this term applied to describe work that is only about 10-20 percent producing media coverage.

If you’re not convinced that “publicist” needs to go, give these four points careful consideration, and let me know if they help change your thinking. (If you already agree, these may help you convert or at least educate others.)

1. Publicists Produce Transactions. PR Pros Build Relationships.

We work in a very transactional environment today. Marketing and communications outcomes are boiled down to clicks, likes, links and conversions, but the stakeholders who need to receive your messages are not clicks and conversions—they’re real human beings who crave meaningful emotional connections with other real human beings.

This absolutely includes journalists.

Media databases like Cision and Meltwater make it much easier to build a big list than a targeted one. Journalists become email addresses and not people. Instead of building a relationship with the media, this transactional approach plays a numbers game. Ultimately, when the media gripes about getting a PR pitch addressed to the wrong name or that’s a country mile off the mark, it’s because they’re not being communicated to as human beings.

Public relations requires building understanding, changing perceptions and motivating behaviors and beliefs. Those kinds of outcomes need a relational versus transactional approach, which requires understanding your audiences and treating them as humans. This can be accomplished through surveys, interviews and focus groups and using that information to create personas.

Publicity is just too limiting a term to encompass these approaches.

2. Publicity is a Tactic. Public Relations Requires Strategy.

As public relations professionals, we can’t fulfill our role and responsibilities with a tactical mindset. We must think strategically.

From research to message development and testing to creative—strategy drives the choices we make, and those choices drive our campaign results. Did we communicate in a manner that earned our audience’s attention and resonated with them so that their perceptions, beliefs and behaviors were impacted?

I equate publicity with none of the above. Instead, I picture someone producing a bunch of press clippings which is useful if stroking your client’s ego is the only goal of your campaign.

3. A Publicist’s Communication is One-Way. PR Requires Listening.

There is far more pitching, posting and publishing than listening on social media and the web these days. I like the term coined by Mark Schaefer five years ago, Content Shock, to sum up the impact of content marketing run rampant. Schaefer pointed out then how the pace and volume of content being produced far exceeded the pace and volume of content being consumed.

Anyone today who is pushing content or a message without creating a way for the recipient to engage, respond and be heard is missing a huge opportunity to build relationships.

Communicators who create space for their stakeholders to be heard are the ones doing it right. When a crisis hits, they’ll be able to engage in conversations with their customers or investors rather than an avalanche of angry or outraged Tweets and Facebook posts.

The brands that weather crises more easily than others are those that have built relationships and goodwill with their stakeholders. And those are the brands being stewarded by strategic communicators and not publicists.

4. Publicity is About Earned Media. Public Relations Crosses All Media.

A decade ago, traditional media outlets underwent an implosion, while podcasts, online videos, blogs and social media storytelling platforms exploded. In the aftermath of these two trends, traditional media gatekeepers like the daily newspaper or evening newscast have lost their ability to influence public perception at scale.

Earned media was once the bread and butter of the public relations function, but today, it is just one of several communication platforms our profession employs to reach and engage with its stakeholders.

The contemporary integrated approach, sometimes referred to as the PESO Model, combines paid, earned, shared and owned media. Paid media can include social media ads and boosting or Google AdWords. Earned media includes press coverage but can include analyst relations, awards and speaking opportunities that imply and/or impart third-party validation. Shared media refers to social networks like Facebook but also review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. Owned media describes all of the creative assets at your disposal to engage your audiences and to interact with them directly including print, digital and multimedia content.

Publicity is a component of only one of those four platforms, making it an inadequate label for describing what today’s strategic communicators do.

So, Let’s Retire the Term Publicist and Champion the Role of Strategic Communicator.

It’s time to toss this transactional, tactical, and out-of-touch term. It’s old school and perpetuates a narrow stereotype of what public relations today actually is. Publicity is about as apropos to what my team and I do every day at (W)right On Communications as my childhood nickname is to my adult identity. Now, if only I could get my mom to stop calling me Oobies.

Ask Me Anything – Public Speaking Tips

The fear of public speaking is real and it’s common. It’s estimated that as much as 75% of the U.S. population (243 million people) fear public speaking. Luckily, with some guidance, coaching and a few public speaking tips; anyone can overcome their fear.

Having led media training and presentation workshops for client partners at (W)right On Communications, I was recently invited to host an AMA on public speaking.

For those unfamiliar, AMA stands for “ask me anything” and is a common online forum format where thought leaders are asked questions about the subject matter they’re expert in. AMAs have become widely popular and have even been used by celebrities to interact and engage with wide audiences. Bill Gates has participated in an AMA to raise awareness about the causes his Foundation champions. Barack Obama was the first sitting president to hold an AMA and he answered questions on everything ranging from economic policy and net neutrality, to money in American politics and the White House’s homebrew recipe. Val Kilmer revealed he had throat cancer during an AMA. Long story short, AMAs are a great venue to get authentic answers to interesting questions.

For the AMA about public speaking tips, I expected a lot of questions about the best way to prepare for speaking in public or techniques for practicing. I was surprised by how many participants asked for tips to overcome their fear. I gave the same answer repeatedly – practice and preparation.

I also received a lot of questions asking for very specific direction or guidance for their individual circumstance. The truth is that every person and every scenario is different. If you’re preparing to speak in front of an audience you’re familiar with about a topic you’re obsessed with, you probably need less preparation to come across as knowledgeable and enthusiastic. If you’re presenting in front of a group of people you’ve never met about a subject you’re less of an expert in, then more preparation would be needed.

Here are some select questions that participants submitted and my responses. Have a different question you want answered? Send it over to us via Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. –Chance

What advice would you give to someone who experiences performance anxiety?

Prepare and practice! The best way to combat performance anxiety is confidence. If you’re confident about your materials and how you’ll deliver them, you’re less likely to be anxious. The amount of preparation should mirror how anxious an individual is/gets. In addition to feeling prepared to deliver the material, the exercise of preparing also forces the individual to confront the anxiety multiple times in advance of the actual scenario. They’ll visualize the scenario, feel the anxiety and be forced to work through it beforethey’re in the moment when it matters.

What tips can you share on what to do if one is giving a speech and suddenly goes blank?

One tip is to ask a question of the audience, if it’s a natural place for it. Hopefully, if the audience has been following along, their question will guide you back on the direction you were originally going.

Another tip is to revisit the points you’ve already made. While this buys time it also provides an opportunity for the speaker to catch back up with their train of thought. While being repetitive isn’t necessarily ideal for a speaker, it can help hammer home key points and give the individual an opportunity to recover.

Option C is to carry a few note cards with 3-4 words to remind you of the key points you want to make.

How can visualization help someone overcome stage fright?

Humans are naturally scared of the unknown. Think about blind dates or visiting a new place. There’s a certain level of anxiety with both. Visualization helps an individual feel more comfortable by anticipating a positive outcome. Visualization also helps the individual to confront nervousness or anxiety in advance of the actual scenario. Once you’ve gotten through that feeling, the nervousness during your speech is likely to be manageable. It’s also like a roller coaster. You might be nervous before your first time riding one, but the second, third, fourth, etc. time are a lot less nerve racking.

Of course, visualization can be a double-edged sword in that if the actual experience doesn’t mirror what the individual visualized, that could create more anxiety. I recommend visualizing but also thinking through alternate scenarios and prepare for how you’d react to the unexpected—like a A/V failure, microphone feedback or empty seats. Don’t be too rigid to where you’re completely thrown off if the reality doesn’t match the expectation. Visiting the venue in advance, arriving early and doing a soundcheck can all also help prevent the unexpected and reduce nerves.

How do you help people overcome their fears and issues about public speaking? What is your method?

It’s a process. Generally, we follow these steps.

  1. Openly discuss past public speaking situations, their experiences and the nerves or anxiety they faced.
  2. Have the individual do a mock speech or presentation with just one or two individuals and a camera.
  3. Conduct a public speaking workshop on the theory behind effective public speaking, tactics and methodologies, common mistakes, and provide some case examples.
  4. Review the video from the individual’s recorded mock speech and go over the issues or errors and talk through what caused them, review potential tactics to avoid them in the future and reference back to the theory and methodology that had been discussed in the workshop.
  5. Strategize on the individual’s preparation going forward with a focus on addressing whatever issues that individual is most prone to.
  6. Let the individual go away (for a few days or weeks, depending on timing) to digest the information provided and implement the preparation plan. Here they’ll practice their upcoming speech.
  7. Having digested and prepared, have the individual come back and go through the mock speech exercise again. Usually, here we will point out all the improvements they’ve made to bolster confidence and do some slight tweaking to help with any areas still needing improvement.
  8. Send them on their way to finalize preparation and watch them crush their next speech!

What are the cognitive reasons related to the fear of speaking in public?

Whoa, we can get deep here, but a lot of it would be speculating as everyone is so different.

Broadly, fear of public speaking is due to their person’s current mental condition and past experiences. An individual’s perception is a manifestation of their background and experiences. Many individuals who fear public speaking have had a bad public speaking experience, or, at least, they haven’t had a good public speaking experience. I’ve seen people who had a paralyzing fear of public speaking almost completely shake it once they’ve gone through the preparation process and then nailed their actual presentation. In many ways, it boils down to not believing in themselves in the first place. Once they’ve shown they can do it, they have the confidence and the tools to be more successful going forward and it relieves a lot of the fear.

Do you offer consultations only to CEO’s and entrepreneurs? Where can people contact you?

We do! In fact, it’s a core competency at my agency, (W)right On Communications, Inc. Whether helping CEOs be more effective internal communicators and leaders or helping arm entrepreneurs with the chops to land the funding they’re needing, our program prepares and empowers participants to use speech in a more impactful way. Check out our website wrightoncomm.com and you can shoot me an email at cshay@wrightoncomm.com.

What type of notes should one carry to help during a public speaking engagement?

Ideally, none. The hope would be that a speaker knows their material so well and is so familiar with the content that the speech flows naturally. (This is an important point – that a speech shouldn’t be so rigid that if you don’t say the exact words in the exact cadence you’re thrown off).

The reality is this isn’t that common unless you’re a professional presenter or have had almost endless experiences with public speaking. In this case, if you’re presenting, the slides can be used as your notes. Slides shouldn’t be full of text (and are even better with next to no text), but they can serve as prompts for individual messages you want to convey or stories to share.

If it’s a traditional in-front-of-podium-style speech, then carry a couple note cards with a few words to remind you of the key points they want to make.

How do you manage your fear when facing a public presentation?

This is always the most common question our trainees ask, and the answer is preparation and practice. If you’ve prepared and practiced, you’re naturally less fearful because you’re more confident in your ability to perform. A professional basketball player – who has spent countless hours preparing and practicing – is completely comfortable playing a high stakes game in front of 40,000 people but would be more nervous presenting to a board.

To prepare: decide the points you want to make and what you want your audience knowing/thinking when they leave the speech, develop a storyline to get you to that result, work on that storyline until it suits your communication style, and then practice. Practice aloud to yourself, aloud in front of a mirror, in front of your best friend or significant other, in front of colleagues who are more experienced public speakers, etc.

Having gone through all of that, you’ll be less fearful.

When it’s show time, manage the anxiety by taking deep breaths and speaking slowly.

How often do you recommend practicing before one attempts to give a presentation?

It depends on how comfortable with the material an individual is. If it’s a presentation that a person has given in one form or another a few times before, then 3-5 practice run throughs might be enough.

If it’s a new presentation, the individual is less experienced in public speaking, or the person has a greater fear of public presentations, then that number can go up drastically. For me, I will practice a presentation or speech a few times a day for a week leading up to delivering it. I like to practice in different scenarios – in a familiar place and an unfamiliar place, in a smaller space and in a bigger space, on the treadmill, while walking the dog, etc. One rule is that last-minute practicing can be a recipe for disaster. By putting off practicing until it’s almost go time, an individual doesn’t give themselves enough time to change parts of the presentation that aren’t working, tweak voice inflection and areas for dramatic pauses, or any other changes and stillhave time to practice the re-worked presentation. By beginning your presentation practice early, you have time to decide how much practice is needed.

I’ll also stress that practicing by itself isn’t necessarily effective. If you practice a terrible presentation, the outcome will still be bad. Thorough preparation, including developing your story arc, memorizing your key points, working to cut down fluff and be more concise, etc., is just as important as practicing.

Has picturing people in their underwear or naked ever worked for you?

I can’t think of many things that would be more distracting than visualizing a group of strangers in front of me naked. Mingling and socializing with audience members before a presentation works a lot better for me. It makes me feel like I know them and I’m just talking to some friends.

Have you ever known someone with a severe case of performance anxiety? Is it possible to give a presentation if you have a similar case?

Absolutely. In fact, most of the individuals we work with fall somewhere on the spectrum of performance anxiety. Not only is it possible for these people to give a successful presentation, it’s almost guaranteed if they follow the right strategies for preparing and practicing. Check out some of the other Q&As here for specific tips and processes.

What advice could you offer to a person that paralyzes when talking to a TV camera?

Focus on the person you’re talking to and not the camera. For some, the physical object that is the camera is what throws them off/makes them uncomfortable and for others it’s the idea that there are thousands/millions of people watching through the camera.

By treating the interview like a conversation and focusing on the person you’re talking to, the intimidation of the camera is reduced.

Also, it’s helpful to remember that it’s not just you carrying the burden of the discussion being recorded by the camera. If you’re being interviewed, focus on the key messages and talking points you’ve prepared with, then let the interviewer help carry the load in terms of driving the conversation forward.

What are some of the methods one can use to get over nervousness when giving a speech?

Nervousness is the product of being unsure and lacking confidence about one’s ability to enact the outcome they want. If I was in a situation where I would either double my salary or lose it completely by hitting a target with a bow and arrow, I would be very nervous because I’ve never shot a bow and arrow. But if I was an experienced archer, I’d wouldn’t be very nervous at all, right?

The method to get over nervousness is to prepare and practice! Preparation and practice will make you more confident that you’re going to get the outcome you want – or, sometimes more importantly, avoid the outcomes you least want. Preparation and practice not only improves confidence, but also forces the individual to confront the nervousness in advance of the actual scenario. By experiencing that nervousness over and over again, the situation becomes less daunting and you’re less nervous.

You can check out other Q&As for a more specific process we typically follow for public speaking training.

Sometimes people use medication to calm themselves. Is this advisable? What are your reasons for saying so?

What I typically advise is to not introduce new medication specifically for the purpose of helping for a given speech or presentation. If your doctor has prescribed a certain medication and you’ve been using it for a while, then it’s less of a variable because you’re familiar with it and are used to it.

The sticky situation comes when something happens – say a surgery or unexpected injury – and the person is prescribed medication near the time of a speech. The medication is intended to treat something specific, but it can affect them in other ways they didn’t expect.

So, the rule of thumb is don’t take new medication because you think it will help calm your public speaking nerves.

Are there any relaxation or meditation exercises that you find helpful before doing a public presentation?

Generally, I’m a big believer in meditation as a great exercise for the mind. With that said, no amount of meditation can make you deliver an impactful presentation if you haven’t prepared and practiced.

You definitely want to be in a good frame of mind going into a public presentation, so don’t be rushed, try not to get in an argument or be involved in a road rage incident on your way to the venue, get sleep and eat nourishing food. Being rested and prepared are probably the most important factors in being able to perform during go time.

What if someone interrupts you when doing a speech and your audience loses attention? What can you say to make them focus on you if you are terribly shy?

Call them out! If an audience person tries to hijack your presentation, you can’t pretend like you didn’t notice or ignore it. Acknowledge their statement, remind the audience why you’re the expert on the topic they’ve come to listen to and offer to speak after the presentation with the audience member. This will nip it in the bud and discourage others from interrupting you going forward.

Some examples:

Interrupter – “I disagree with what you’re saying. In my experience,….”

Your response – “That’s an interesting observation. In my XX years of experience, I haven’t heard or seen what you describe. Let’s explore that after the presentation. Now, the point I was making is…”

Would you recommend having an alcoholic drink to calm one’s nerves before a presentation? Why or why not?

I’d never advise this to someone. Taking some sort of depressant or stimulant – whether alcohol, pharmaceuticals or otherwise – is a crutch. The best way to create confidence and ensure you’re effective is by methodically preparing and practicing. If you’ve prepared and are well practiced, you’ll be less nervous, but perhaps more excited.

Not to mention, a drink might have unintended consequences that could have a far greater negative effect than the good it does with calming nerves. It might work when approaching someone during a social event where alcohol is being served. But in a professional setting, you don’t want to be buzzed when your audience is sober – especially if they paid to see you!

What types of rituals do you have to do before a presentation? What is the logic behind these rituals?

I start by defining the goals of the presentation – what is the one thing (if it’s a short presentation) or three things (if it’s a longer presentation) I want my audience walking away with. From there, I start to outline content to form a story arc. Once I have that frame, I begin to massage and rework the story to be more effective and concise. Once I have the story developed, I’ll begin working on the physical presentation and visuals. I want the visuals to align with the mood of the presentation and the vibe of the venue/audience.

I’m much more ritualistic with my practice routine. First, I practice by physically reading my script. Saying the words out loud helps me identify what feels uncomfortable and awkward, so that I can rework it. After this, I will go through the presentation with an audience of colleagues who are experienced public speakers for feedback and input. From there, I revise the story and practice the presentation in the bathroom or in front of a mirror, so I can focus on getting my expressions and vocal inflections down. After all of this, I move to an empty conference room or something more spacious – typically speeches are given in bigger, more open venues so this will more closely resemble the actual experience. During this time, I’ll also try to do a walkthrough of the venue if I’m not already familiar with it.

This is maybe two weeks out from the presentation. For the week leading up to the presentation I’ll visualize the presentation and practice delivering the story out loud a few times throughout the day – while walking the dog, driving to the office, on the treadmill.

On the day of, I have my normal amount of caffeine, listen to upbeat music that puts me in a good mood on the drive to the venue, and arrive well in advance of the actual event so that I can get comfortable in the space.

Sometimes when giving a presentation people sweat and use their hands excessively. What should be done to control over gesturing and not perspiring as much?

Gesturing is common and not necessarily bad. Depending on the topic, venue and audience, gesturing is important to keep attention and generate engagement with the audience. For a person that tends to have more distracting gestures, it’s helpful for them to record themselves on video and review the recording with a colleague to identify what’s working and what’s taking away from their message. From there, the individual can do things like no-gesture practicing (trying to remain still while delivering their presentation) to change their behaviors. By over-compensating on the correction, the final result will be something right in the sweet spot, typically.

The sweating thing is a lot different, simply because a lot of it has to do with a person’s genetics. One tip is to wear light clothing to limit the warmth of the body. Trying to keep the body at as low a temperature as possible is helpful. Having water handy and choosing clothing that doesn’t show perspiration are other tips.

How does stage fright manifest itself? Is this a shyness-related problem?

In my experience, introverts and extroverts are just as susceptible to stage fright. The fear is more closely connected to the fear of failure than the fear of interacting with people. If you told a person with stage fright that there was a 100% likelihood she will be successful on stage, she wouldn’t be afraid.

The best way to overcome this is creating confidence that you’ll be successful in the speech/presentation/interview. Success comes from practice and preparation, which we discuss in-depth in other Q&As in this thread. Check them out!