Looking for a fairy tale ending for your cleantech news?

For over five years we’ve worked with clients in the smart grid industry; some of these include start-ups in the demand-side management (DSM) sector.

During this time, news about demand-side response has developed as network operators and DNOs recognise the benefits these services deliver for grid balancing and the integration of renewables, such as wind and solar.

Uncover the opportunity

DSM services emerged in the US back in the 1970s in response to growing concerns about its dependence on foreign sources of oil and the environmental impact of electricity generation. However, it’s only in the last five or six years that DSM has started to receive media attention in the UK as ‘aggregators’ become established. News was either misunderstood or virtually unheard of. This presented a PR opportunity to educate the media and generate wider understanding for potential customers.

Education to differentiation

Our initial approach was to raise awareness about new technologies and services provided by aggregators that would help network operators balance supply and demand on the UK’s electricity network. As more DSM players emerged with similar stories and the media caught up, it was necessary to change tack. Innovations in technology, customer benefits, case studies and new applications that would help differentiate our clients’ services from the growing competition allowed us to shift the narrative.

The switch from education to differentiation proved successful and the results exceeded our marketing KPIs. In just a few years, some of our smart grid clients have gone from zeros to heroes in the DSM sector having generated extensive media coverage in national press titles such as The Guardian, The Times; leading business publications including The Economist; broadcast media and BBC online, television and radio. We achieved widespread coverage across international print and online trade publications, including TechCrunch, MIT Technology Review, BusinessGreen and edie.net.

Make it sticky!

As a specialist cleantech agency, employing senior technical editors and journalists, we understand your technology; we’re able to explore news angles and then communicate it in a way that editors and your audience will find compelling. With a carefully crafted story and thorough preparation we can put in place several measures that will give your news the best possible chance of delivering a positive outcome and hopefully a happy ending.

Almost five years ago a client, now one of the UK’s leading DSM aggregators, approached us with a technology story having learned about our cleantech credentials. They explained what demand-side response was and how it worked. At first, this seemed like a fairy tale if ever there was one. ‘What’s the catch?’ was the first thing that goes through most minds.

The challenge: to explain how major energy users across different industry sectors could generate new revenue streams simply by turning down systems such as HVAC, refrigeration and pumping equipment.

Does anybody care? News or snooze

Following a light-bulb moment, we set to work implementing a PR plan with some ambitious KPIs but first we asked some important questions:

Will anyone actually care about this news? Is there anything ‘new’ or unusual in the story? Who else outside of this business will be interested?

What problems will it solve? With all boxes ticked we were ready to make the following recommendations:

  • Media training for spokespeople – Preparation is key so it’s worth investing time in to learning how the media works, what they look for in a news story and how best to present this.
  • Be prepared to comment on relevant industry issues – fast.
  • Professional photography/video – Editors or producers appreciate a good news story. Having ready-made B-roll, high-resolution images, infographics and diagrams will help get your message across quickly and more easily than just words. Often printed media will allocate more page space to a story that has a strong visual element so having a combination of good photography and well-written content will ensure your news gets noticed. Invest in some.
  • Case studies – It’s tempting to immediately start shouting from the rooftops as soon as your product or service is ready to go. It may be worth holding off until a third-party customer can endorse your marketing claims. Editors will almost certainly ask for this.

A smart agency for smart grid

Choosing the right PR agency is essential. Your agency should be up to date with technology developments, industry issues and trends. It will be tuned in to what editors are writing about. Check out their other clients; do they have businesses on their books that complement your own? Smart grid is a broad sector so any agency with clients working in, for example, energy storage, renewables, smart grid sensors, IoT and smart energy software platforms will have good media relations and, more importantly, have the ability to understand and communicate your story to a wider audience.

We can’t spin gold from straw. We don’t have a magic lamp to grant you three successful business wishes, but we can plant a few seeds (or magic beans) that may help you re-evaluate your marketing strategy.