Top tips for getting media coverage for your organisation’s climate action

By Nikki Wright

As a Climate Leaders Coalition (CLC) signatory, Wright Communications has enthusiastically encouraged the Coalition’s proactivity in securing all-important media coverage for climate change initiatives undertaken by fellow signatories.

Here’s a step-by-step guide we’ve pulled together with Rachael Cox of Acorn PR and in her capacity as PR manager for the Climate Leaders Coalition to putting your organisation’s initiatives in the media spotlight.

Climate action top tips:

  1. Make carbon reductions tangible

Most people understand that reducing emissions is measured in terms of the tonnes of carbon reduced or saved, but it is vital that examples are given to help people understand the size and scale of your climate action.  A good example is CLC’s first annual snapshot report which uses the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority’s methodology to convert how much carbon signatories jointly removed in the Coalition’s first year into an equivalent amount of petrol cars being taken off the road.

You can use the US Environmental Protection Agency’s free Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator to do this.  It allows users to convert emissions into a range of metrics like petrol cars taken off the road or trees planted to enhance storytelling around greenhouse gas reduction strategies and other initiatives.

  1. If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t know it well enough

We can’t stress enough the importance of using plain English when explaining your climate action strategies and how they work, especially to media. If you can’t explain it confidently and accurately, you don’t know it well enough.

Regardless of how knowledgeable you are, avoid climate jargon.

You also need to be honest in your dealings with the media. Talk about the challenges your organisation is facing as well as the progress it is making. If you don’t, the results can be embarrassing.

The use of message houses are also an effective way of helping you formulate your media pitches.

  1. Put it on a plate, not just in a press release

Distribution of a press release is no guarantee of media coverage.

A good way to improve the chance of media pickup is to pitch your release exclusively to the outlet you consider the best fit for your story, and then activate the PR as soon as they’ve run it.

CLC did this for the launch of its new Statement of Ambition, offering it exclusively to Radio NZ’s Nine to Noon programme a week in advance. This resulted in a 20-minute feature interview. They then released the media release more widely.

A good example of “putting it on a plate” for media is the publicity campaign celebrating the world’s longest flight over water by an electric plane run by Christchurch start-up Electric Air.

An embargoed press release was supported by photographs courtesy of a spotter plane; a video of the electric plane was made available; Wellington and Blenheim media were invited to film takeoffs and landings, and to interview Electric Air’s founder; and VIPs were invited to see the plane. 

The resulting local, national and international coverage was phenomenal.

  1. Get Creative

Being creative is especially relevant if the extent of your climate action is modest.

Media coverage needs to be earned. Earned media is more trusted than advertising and resulting coverage can be leveraged by promoting your climate action on social media.

Think beyond a press release: think listicles, industry and local media, opinion pieces from your Chief Executive, sponsored content agreements, panel appearances, and self-publishing on LinkedIn as well.

  1. Be timely

The news cycle is incredibly fast because of online media. When reacting to government policy announcements, for example, your statement needs to be out there as soon as possible.

On behalf of our clients, Wright Communications often has a draft press release basically written and ready to tweak and release.

It is better to distribute a press release before it happens, embargoed if necessary, instead of releasing it well after the fact.

Also think about what you can tie your climate news to, be it World Environment Day or some other topic of current media interest.

  1. Don’t bury your climate action in your annual report

Separate your climate work from your annual report as they cannibalise each other and can result in your climate action being lost in the mix.

Feature your organisation’s climate action prominently on your website, and preferably on a page dedicated to your climate action.

  1. Your staff are your greatest ambassadors

Never underestimate the power of your own employees and their networks on channels like LinkedIn. Actively use them as ambassadors and provide them with an elevator pitch on your climate action.

Keep employees informed and get them involved in actions to reduce your company emissions via initiatives like competitions, volunteering and action days.

  1. Third party support

Finally, think about who can validate your organisation’s climate action. That might include industry representatives, carbon verifiers and other companies involved in the project.

An excellent example of third-party support was evident in IAG New Zealand’s recent launch of its annual climate change poll. It included quotes from Climate scientist James Renwick and the Climate Change Minister.

CLC and the Sustainable Business Council are also keen to promote signatories through their website, social media channels and SBC’s weekly newsetter Panui, so keep them informed on what you’re up to.

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