“Climate change is now a communications challenge.” This David Attenborough quote is core to energy media relations. Communications professionals in energy have the great fortune to be in the field at a time that much of the technology needed to address our climate emergency already exists. Now, it’s (largely) a communications challenge.
Today’s energy media relations strategies look different than they did even 5 years ago. Climate-related disasters, aging grid infrastructure, and new and changing policies brought energy innovation and technologies to the forefront of media. While newsrooms everywhere are consolidating, energy and climate coverage is expanding. Two recently announced media outlets, The Cool Down and Pique Action, exemplify this trend. They plan to make their mark with trending tactics such as “anti-doomscrolling” and viral-worthy TikTok content.
With more coverage comes more voices vying for time at the microphone – or on the Zoom call. If your company has a part to play in the energy transition, you know what I mean. Here are three ways to improve your chances of securing briefings and coverage, based on what we’re seeing with reporters from energy trades to national media.
Data Visualization Demystifies Energy Topics
In the time of TikTok recaps and Twitter threads, charts and images summarizing your message can help get your brand in front of more eyes. Readers have shorter attention spans, meaning you likely have around five seconds to hook someone. Do you show them a colorful, brief chart or a wall of text? Brevity and quick snippets are your friends.
Canary Media, a rising star in the energy media landscape, quickly recognized the need for visuals to expand their audience. Maria Virginia Olano runs Canary’s Chart of the Week column, which translates timely industry data into visuals perfect for a LinkedIn or Twitter post. When I asked Maria Virginia about the inspiration and strategy behind the column, she shared:
Over at Wall Street Journal (WSJ), energy and EV transition reporter Jennifer Hiller published an out of the park piece visualizing EV charging versus gasoline prices across the country. Recognizing “range anxiety” as a leading concern for drivers considering the switch to electric, the piece was perfectly timed to publish directly ahead of Thanksgiving and Christmas, a popular road trip season.
Bye Bye, Doomscrolling: Positive Human-Interest Stories Resonate
Close your eyes and envision prominent images of climate change. There’s a good chance one of those is a polar bear floating away on a broken glacier, a hurricane destroying low-income communities, an agricultural town facing drought. There is extensive evidence proving this heart-wrenching, negative news enraptures people. However, it also causes hopelessness, despair, and the urge to look away. You don’t want to leave people with negative feelings when your aim is to inspire investment, policy changes, and new projects and partnerships. What is the point if this is a battle we’re destined to lose?
People are looking for hope and solutions. Plug into it. Find your human-interest story. Share about the oil and gas worker who went to school to reskill for the wind farms popping up across her community. Promote how your customer’s business is embracing sustainable innovation through your technology. Educate on how the family down the street is charging their EV with solar panels, or how electric buses are cutting down pollution by an inner-city high school.
In a recent sit-down with WSJ’s Jennifer Hiller, she let me know that her readers are always looking to learn, “What does this mean for me?” Focus your public relations strategy on getting others to promote what you are doing for them.
Speed (at the Exact Moment) Reigns Supreme
Axios media trends reporter Sara Fischer recently noted that coverage of the weather far outpaces climate change reporting. To me, this comes down to people wanting to know what is going to impact them today.
When you work in PR at an energy company, you hear the alarm bells ringing daily for years: the electric grid is ancient, policies aren’t lining up with net-zero goals, we’re running out of time. And while we all want to get out there and shout, “We need to act now!”, it is human nature to change only once we’re directly impacted.
How does this translate to an energy media relations strategy? Your team must constantly follow the news, from policy to weather. Because media write about what is impacting people today. And once the moment strikes, once the public is ready to hear your message, you must be ready – with a spokesperson, a quote, talking points, data, and context.
What does speed look like in action?
As scientists predicted another summer of extreme heat, INK’s team was in close contact with a client’s regulatory affairs department, receiving updates on regional grids and efforts to strengthen resilience. Most media in May and early June were too busy to accept pre-briefing interviews before a major grid incident happened. However, during July in Texas, temperatures soared above 100 degrees for several days straight, and ERCOT prompted users to conserve energy.
With residents concerned, our team immediately reached out to our contacts. We were ready to offer expert interviews and insights via email to explain these conservation efforts and the benefits of demand response programs to both businesses and communities. This outreach resulted in a powerful, on-message piece in the Houston Chronicle.
In a space that’s constantly evolving, the window to share your perspective on industry news is limited. The advantage will go to those who can quickly provide valuable, forward-thinking insights and be available for follow-up questions as needed.
Audit and Adapt Your Energy Media Relations
Now – take some time to revisit and audit your strategy. How can you simplify your message through visuals? Where are you leaning too much on doom and gloom? When should you start laying a foundation for your campaigns, so you can move faster when it counts? By embracing shareability, silver linings, and speed, your strategy is sure to stand out in the pack.
For more tips on earning energy media coverage, explore our interactive e-book: PR’s Guide to Media 2022.