Contributed by Eric Fschgrund, founder of FischTank PR
As FischTank PR has grown, I’ve been very fortunate to work with a younger generation of PR practitioners. These are good people who never opened a Bacon’s media directory or stuffed press kits with releases and mocked-up media coverage (we did that?). Some of these newly minted professionals are at FischTank and cleantech agencies like us not just because they’re passionate about public relations and journalism, but because they care about the planet, all of its inhabitants and our future sustainability. More specifically, they’re interested in climate tech and its potential impact.
This was me, too. Fifteen years ago, I sat in a cubicle in Hackensack, NJ and learned about companies innovating in renewable and sustainable technologies. For better or worse, I’ve learned a few things that have helped me survive professionally and mentally. Today I share tips for the next crop of climate tech and sustainability communications and marketing professionals:
- Dig in and keep a short memory. Unfortunately, change does not happen overnight. Many companies that tout their “game-changing, paradigm-shifting, high growth technologies” will never bring those products to market. Others will raise massive amounts of money and go bankrupt, all without reducing a single carbon emission. Political winds can shift, quickly, making an unfavorable environment (2016-2020) to a very favorable one (2020-2022), very quickly. As the Inflation Reduction Act bill showed us, legislation can die and leave you feeling powerless, only to be resurrected again and passed. We don’t have a ton of time to try and reverse parts of climate change, but you will need to be patient.
- Know your subject matter. Kilowatts vs. kilowatts per hour; behind-the-meter vs. front-of-the-meter; green hydrogen vs. blue hydrogen; and virtual power plants (VPP) vs. microgrids. There are so many similar and related climate technologies, and even more nuances when it comes to understanding and describing them.
But, journalists will notice if your terminology isn’t consistent, and your bosses certainly will as well.It’s OK to be overwhelmed by climate tech and renewables terminology – I still am today – but it’s important to work at and know your limitations. I recommend viewing YouTube videos, as many companies now have succinct two-to-five-minute videos that accurate describe a technology, process or project. This is especially helpful for those of us who are very visual, and struggle with a more complex, content-heavy overview.
Podcasts have proven to be a very useful tool, especially with the generation of professionals now entering today’s job market. I know many who listen on commutes, while working, at the gym, etc. and are able to convert that audio to permanent knowledge. To that point…
- …You should be reading certain media outlets and getting to know journalists. When I got into this business 15 years ago there were only a handful of trade publications writing about the clean energy movement and sustainable technologies and practices. Now? There are dozens, including the one you are reading at the moment. Further, nearly every top tier/mainstream media outlet has at least one if not multiple dedicated renewable energy and climate reporters. Bloomberg, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Reuters and others routinely break important climate tech news.
Beyond traditional media, there are now tons of podcasts and YouTube channels devoted to each specific industry within climate tech and sustainability.
I suggest picking a handful of reporters who cover clean technologies like energy storage, solar, wind and hydrogen, as well as those who break funding, new projects and partnerships, and other deal flow. Follow those journalists on Twitter, and keep an eye for their byline when they publish new content.
- Find your network(s). Depending on where you may live, there are likely meet-ups and small events comprised by sustainability-minded individuals such as yourself. These in-person get togethers (assuming you are comfortable doing so) are great opportunities to meet professionals similar to you, especially those with new climate tech start-ups. For any communications or marketing professional, meeting young companies before they receive funding and scale can lead to freelance consulting or an opportunity to join as their lone marcomms manager. Similarly, established companies often have a wider array of entry level positions for a new cleantech communications professional.
Don’t restrict yourself to in-person events only! There are group slack channels with hundreds and even thousands of members, LinkedIn groups and Twitter hashtags like #energytwitter – all of which facilitate engagement and sometimes business.
Don’t be too hard on yourself! Everyone starts somewhere, and this industry is changing every single day. Like anything else in life, you can put yourself in a better position to win, and work with exciting companies that are on the front lines of climate change. Follow the steps above and work on incrementally getting better every day, and you will have a long climate tech career at a time when we need you most.
Eric Fischgrund is the Founder of FischTank PR, a leading climate tech PR firm.