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Could PR really save the planet?

Posted by Eleanor Dobson on 23rd August 2012

Earlier this week I came across a thought-provoking blog from James Murray, editor of Business Green, suggesting it’s time for green marketing to grow up. He argues that many clean tech firms are failing to do justice to their products and services by ineffectively marketing themselves, and that this is holding back the green economic revolution.

There are many proven green products and services already available that would have a huge impact if widespread, not just on the planet but saving consumers a considerable amount of money in the long term too. Technology development is no longer the priority for this industry, instead the challenge is getting consumers to recognise the benefits. Once profitability takes off, commercial innovation will drive itself.

While agreeing with many of Murray’s points I also wonder if it shouldn’t be such an individualised attack on clean tech firms, but rather it’s an issue that needs to be addressed collaboratively. Many of these innovative clean tech companies are start-ups without the clout or marketing budgets to shift a broad cultural perception of ‘green technology’. PR agencies, on the other hand, are powerful vehicles that could take greater responsibility for aligning the public engagement with these firms collectively, giving strength in numbers.

This begins at individual agency level, but if multiple agencies were to collaborate the impact could be far greater. A highly optimistic suggestion in such a competitive industry, I grant you, but I like to believe that at least a teeny part of every PR working for clean tech clients is doing so because they believe in green and see the bigger picture.

I recently attended a PRCA briefing event with the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Energy Saving Trust (EST), which directly introduced an array of PR representatives to the communications objectives for the soon to launch Green Deal consumer initiative. It seemed to me a great opportunity for important organisations such as DECC and the EST to speak to multiple PR agencies and in-house representatives at once. After all, it makes sense to educate and collaborate with those of us who generate content for public engagement on green issues for many clean tech companies.

However, I largely came away feeling there’s an opportunity here for PRs to speak to each other and address the bigger picture. Getting a host of influential PR experts in a room to exchange ideas on what will really drive change in consumer perceptions of ‘green’ would be a logical start, but for agencies to really buy-in to a lasting collaborative effort this would have to go further.

To suggest putting aside agency competition in favour of collaboration for positive change may sound like I’m rehearsing a Miss World speech, but sharing our expertise and improving the credibility of our industry would have commercial benefits for those involved too.

The PR industry has unmatched potential for influencing consumer perceptions and you know what they say, with great power comes great responsibility.

picture credit

Eleanor Dobson