5 tips for PR pros looking to work on sustainability

Are you looking for more meaning in your chosen vocation? One PR pro shares advice on getting involved in campaigns about sustainability and environmental justice.

In their hiring efforts and subsequent interviews, recruiters and candidates alike say PR pros are looking for more meaningful, fulfilling work. 

Often that means working with clients who have some sort of advocacy element, as in health care PR, nonprofit PR and, now, sustainability PR.

Yes, PR pros young and old are looking for ways to work in fields fueled by environmental, scientific and climate-focused causes. These industries span (but are certainly not limited to) clean-tech, waste management, renewable energy, ag-tech (agricultural technology) or anything relevant to the future of the earth and its inhabitants—humans, fauna and flora. 

It’s not that easy. Thousands of PR firms are working in more consumer-friendly, fashion- and technology-driven industries, creating tens of thousands of jobs at agencies and in-house for PR pros. By contrast, sustainability PR has only really begun to take off over the past decade, meaning there are fewer firms doing it, and thus less opportunity to get in.

With that in mind, here are a few ideas for PR pros to start working in these industries:

  • Sustainability is a broad term, so be open-minded. Sustainability encompasses many industries, spanning renewable energy and clean technology, waste management, agriculture, recycling, water treatment, battery technology and energy storage, and much more. As a media relations specialist looking to expand into sustainable PR, don’t box yourself into one sector or “wish list” for subject matter. Read the news, learn more about what interests you, find the companies and PR firms doing it, and start preparing to make the transition. 
  • Know the news. Getting familiar with the outlets and journalists writing about sustainability topics is a key first step to working with them as a media relations pro. If you’re into renewable energy and clean technology, check out Greentech Media, Triple Pundit and Cleantechnica. Popular magazines and online outlets with prominent innovation and sustainability reporters include Fast Company, Axios, Wired and Popular Science. Even “traditional” media outlets like Bloomberg, CNBC, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have reporters and space dedicated to these subjects.
  • Rely on tech, science and positive impact experience. Cleantech PR is booming thanks to innovation among solar, energy storage and electric vehicle companies that are being covered by mainstream technology reporters. Similarly, science journalists are covering topics such as CRISPR gene-editing technology in plants, and the nuances of battery manufacturing capabilities—two popular topics in sustainability circles.  
  • Volunteer your time. If you’re getting into a field of PR to “do good,” committing to a nonprofit that affords you essential experience is a solid idea. Many philanthropic efforts are related to food shortages, countries or whole regions relying on renewable energy and clean technology to recover from a natural disaster, and other environmental issues. Try reaching out and offering to support them with pro bono media outreach; it is a positive thing to do, builds your network and gets you experience.
  • Demonstrate your passion, and become more vocal. If you wake up every morning and brush your teeth because the dentist said so, you believe in science. Assuming this and with climate scientists pleading for public support and Mother Nature herself flashing warning signs in the form of catastrophic storms and heat waves, it’s time to take action. That doesn’t mean starting a political argument with your uncle on Facebook, but rather discussing commonly known topics like plastic in our oceans, fires on the Golden Coast and other life-altering almost-daily events. Follow relevant journalists on Twitter, connect with decision-makers on LinkedIn, and position yourself as an expert by posting thoughtful content that doesn’t antagonize, but gets your point across about your vision for a sustainable future. Most people are thinking what you’ll be saying.

Public relations has long been used to elevate spirits brands, celebrities, social media networks, restaurants and business moguls. Now, it’s being used to bring awareness to innovation, technology and visions for a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable world. 

Eric Fischgrund is the founder and CEO of FischTank Marketing and Public Relations.


One Response to “5 tips for PR pros looking to work on sustainability”

    Ronald N. Levy says:

    To win on sustainability or almost any other issue, do what Sen. Elizabeth Warren did in the 12/19 debate: appeal to the most massive possible number of people.

    The top priority of voters is to help not so much a candidate as to help themselves. It’s no sin. The Critical Question In the voter’s mind at least subconsciously is: What will I get? The candidate who promises the most benefits tends to get the most votes.

    Senator Warren promises an extra $200 a month for each Social Security recipient plus an elimination of student loans. How many voters does this attract? Google shows that 61 million are on Social Security. Student debt is owed by 43 million (unless I’ve read it wrong since that number is hard to believe). In addition we can guess whether another 20 million Americans are close enough to Social Security age so another $200 a month sounds appealing.

    The families of high school students—not just parents but also aunts, uncles and grandparents—may increase the number of people who see appealing
    potential “what do I get” benefits in a promise of goodbye to college debt.

    I’m not advocating for or against any candidate. My whole training and
    inclination is to gladly make a case as lawyers do for whoever the client is. But PR reality is that self-interest is a normal human response that is predictable.

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