As consumer concern has turned to the economy, interest in purely green PR strategies has waned. To drive awareness, firms must re-evaluate the way they package their clients' environmentally based marketing programs to make them more relevant.
Despite the financial climate, RFPs within the past few months have still requested that agency work focus on sustainability and communication of companies' environmental stories, according to Dave Chapman, partner and director at Ketchum West.
“We're getting a lot of [RFPs] saying we need to tell our sustainability story,” he adds.
Pia Garcia, EVP at Porter Novelli, agrees. “I'm seeing more clients requiring that an agency has [green] expertise, whether on the consumer front or industry side... The biggest opportunity for marketers right now is to close the gap between green attitudes and connect with the consumer in a way [that is] directly relevant to his or her lifestyle.”
For a client's environmental stories to stay relevant, agencies have had to incorporate different points of reference. Reaching out to a wide audience rather than just environmentalists with this messaging is also vital, says Chapman.
“[Personal] relationships provide even higher [credibility] than scientific studies or third-party experts,” he says. “Marketers need to influence those friends and families.”
Relevant tie-ins are also effective. Garcia notes that marketers need to focus on the “dual benefits of green initiatives and competitive savings,” for instance how energy efficient appliances impact energy bills, as well as the environment.
Highlighting more practical concerns, beside green outcomes, is key, adds Leah Haran, VP at Airfoil PR. She notes that agencies need to have a point of interest to persuade the consumer to care. Family health and wellness is a good lens through which to show green products to consumers, particularly mommy bloggers.
For Airfoil client Ecostore, a distributor and retailer of environmentally sustainable household products, the firm aligned its messaging with the way mothers read nutritional labels in order to evaluate how toxic chemicals in housing products can affect their families.
“It's about empowering readers and making them aware of potential toxic chemicals [in other items],” she adds. “This gave them a why.”
Andrea Fabbri, cofounder and COO of EcoAlign, an eco-centric marcomms agency, says companies must transparently show the actual value their clients' products provide. The firm represents clients such as Daylight Technology, a solutions company that harvests natural light to illuminate commercial spaces.
Fabbri says he doesn't “talk in terms of green” to clients because “green is washing green” nowadays. Instead, the firm focuses on showing actual value, such as how these products positively impact local communities.
“Up until now, green has been treated as a way to save the world,” he explains. “There are plenty of studies that show if you lead with that kind of messaging, you will have a backlash.”
Green messaging must now be supported by other points of interest for consumers
Tying green messaging to economic or health issues keeps sustainability top-of-mind for consumers
Aligning green messaging with lifestyle and value-based messaging is a way many agencies are communicating the importance of green practices