February’s WCA luncheon on green PR featured panelists Ted Burton from Enviromedia, Oliver Bernstein from Sierra Club and Matt Smelser from Environmental Defense Fund. Here’s a recap of the top three themes our panelists emphasized for a successful environmentally-focused campaign.
1. Be accountable
“’Green’ has become a throwaway term because it’s everywhere,” Burton said. Instead, promote authentic, research-based strategies to change behavior and get results.
In the same vein, Bernstein explained that we must bring the same level of professionalism as we would if we had a corporate client.
“’We’re going to save the planet’ isn’t the best way to raise money. You need to be more specific. Ask who you’re accountable to and what’s at stake.”
2. Tell a story
In Smelser’s case, it was challenging to make an abstract thing like the ocean more relevant and relatable. Rather than going the obvious route of showing dead fish, Smelser focused on the larger issue at hand by telling the fisherman’s story. He highlighted how overfishing destroys a way of life and the positive impact of switching to sustainable fishing.
Bernstein agreed that getting people to connect the dots is really important.
“We try to make these stories, visuals and images relevant,” Bernstein said. “We’re careful not to exploit these stories, but elevate them.”
The best way to do that, Burton said, is to eliminate jargon and help both clients and consumers speak the language. In the end, you let them become the storyteller.
3. Keep it local
For Sierra Club’s anti-coal campaign, Bernstein said they realized climate was a nonstarter. Instead, they focused on the health issues (like young children developing asthma) as a result of neighboring coal plants.
“You’ve gotta keep it local,” Berstein said. Know your audience, take your time and take smaller steps.
Thank you to Ted Burton, Oliver Bernstein and Matt Smelser for sharing their Green PR insights this month and to Urbanspace Realtors for sponsoring!