In a market that is virtually inundated with “green” messaging and sustainability efforts, audiences are becoming increasingly skeptical and it can be difficult to differentiate “greenwashing” and media hype from the genuine, beneficial efforts that many companies are embarking upon.
Launching a public relations campaign to support environmental and sustainability initiatives is a valuable way to both increase awareness of your efforts and to gain increased credibility among your key audiences. However, these programs are often highly complex and require a more sophisticated, integrated communications strategy in order to successfully deal with the challenges of competition and differentiation in a crowded marketplace with increasingly cynical consumers.
When it comes to marketing environmental issues, it is important to be aware of the unique demands surrounding this area. For example:
- Environmental issues are often driven by a combination of influences from regulators, legislation, public opinion, and customer needs.
- The complexity and politics of the issues create confusion even for advanced audiences.
- Mitigating the public's skepticism about environmental claims on issues such as global warming requires an extra degree of third party validation
So, how do companies prove their authenticity in the public realm? Below are several ways to establish ‘green communications' that come with extra validity:
- Be proactive in forging partnerships with regulators, elected officials, environmental agencies, and nonprofits. Endorsement from these organizations will support and enhance your company's “green” efforts.
- Work cooperatively with these partners on marketing and communications efforts and strive to learn from their wealth of experience and established networks.
- Place a heavier emphasis on earned media and cause-related approaches, which carry more validity than advertising and other paid media approaches.
Integrating these validating approaches into your overall strategic communications planning will help to ground your efforts in tangible, respected, widely recognized, and established initiatives and will ensure that your target audiences hear your message above the greenwashed crowd.
Jim Cabot is a senior vice president of the energy and environment practice at Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications. He can be reached at