A conflict of interest… or a shared interest?

Scenario 1

Client: “Do you work with any other organisations in our sector?”
PR: “Yes, we work with one other similar client.”
Client: “Ah! There might be a conflict of interest here.”

Scenario 2

Client: “Do you work with any other organisations in our sector?”
PR: “Yes, we work with several clients and have done so successfully for many years.”
Client: “Ah! A specialist agency that understands my business and has access to the right media contacts.”

You can see where we’re going with this.

As a PR and marketing agency specialising in the cleantech industry, we’re often approached by companies operating in similar sectors. They may have competing or complementary products or services. This is becoming increasingly common, particularly within the energy sector; more specifically within the industry we refer to as smart grid.

Five years ago we started working with a demand-side response (DSR) aggregator to help raise its profile and educate the market about this relatively new service (at least in the UK anyway) that generates new revenue streams for major energy users able to reduce or shift their energy usage during times of peak demand.

Meanwhile, other companies began offering standby power services, operating large diesel farms that could be called upon at short notice to help the network operator balance the grid. More recently, companies are now offering large, grid-scale battery energy storage systems (BESS) as a means of meeting the next-generation of advanced DSR services, such as sub-second dynamic frequency response.

Diversification

Now we see DSR aggregators looking to gain supply licences and suppliers/DNOs becoming aggregators; a situation that is creating a highly competitive market and one that is undergoing radical change.

Enter the smart grid aggregator; a company that offers a comprehensive range of layered services, from electricity supply, grid balancing, BESS, voltage optimisation and renewable technologies.

So, what does this mean for those agencies working with smart grid companies? As the energy sector morphs into an industry with fewer organisations, offering similar services, it starts to raise the thorny ‘conflict of interest’ question. If an agency works with two similar clients, it could be viewed as a conflict. If it works with three or more then it becomes a niche agency, specialising in the smart grid industry.

Our view is simple. All our clients are equally important to us. It goes without saying that sharing confidential information between them would ruin the integrity and reputation of an agency. It’s a situation that any agency in the business of reputation management should avoid at all costs. 

In our experience, no two clients are the same. Even when operating in a similar industry, they have contrasting views, unique approaches and a variety of service offerings, so we can never have an ‘insert company name here’ approach. For all their ‘supposed’ similarities, clients are vastly different. The benefit of working with a specialist agency allows it to shape and mould messaging, ensuring each client communicates their main points of difference.

Cut to the chase

Part of our job is to make the life of news reporters and feature writers as easy as possible. One way we can achieve this is by ‘selling in’ or pitching interesting news stories, case studies or suggestions for feature articles. In order to strike a balanced view from the industry, journalists often need to contact several companies. This can be time consuming if they have to go through numerous press offices or several different PR contacts.

Well here’s the thing. Editors are constantly pressed for time; always on a deadline and often take short shrift with PRs ringing them up distracting them from their task in hand. 

Over the years, Resonates has gained an enviable reputation within the PR industry as a leading cleantech specialist. It has forged valuable relationships with leading industry writers in the national, broadcast and industry press. When our media contacts answer the phone, they know there’s something worth talking about. Of course, the ideal situation is that we don’t have to do the ringing; they will ring us because they know who we work for and are assured of a swift response. (Happy to announce this does actually happen!)

Representing multiple clients across similar industry sectors is a win-win situation for all concerned. Clients will often gain the media coverage they’re looking for; journalists file their balanced copy before their deadlines, and we maintain our reputation as a leading cleantech PR and marketing agency, capable of delivering outstanding results.