The clean energy and renewable energy media is a growing section of the news industry. As we make the transition to low carbon and renewables this section of the media is expanding to cover the new industries and innovations. This week I joined in a webinar featuring prominent journalists from POWERGrid International, CleanTechnica, Utility Drive, solarwakeup, Recharge and GreenBiz to find out the state of journalism in the sector and how to approach them with a story.
The clean-energy landscape
The webinar started off with a look at trends each journalist focused on in the first part of the year, they included energy resilience, autonomous vehicles, the impact of AI and blockchain on energy supply chains, AgTech and carbon removal technologies. Then, Coronavirus hit and until very recently, no-one knew how badly the clean tech sector had been affected. In the US, over 100k jobs have so far been lost, in the UK, we don’t yet know the impact – present or predicted.
On that topic, Darius Snieckus from Recharge made an interesting point regarding the corporate renewables story – how the clean energy sales process can adapt and build trust through the likes of Zoom, and the longer-term impacts of remote working and greater diversity. It’s a question which many clean energy companies are now trying to answer and it will take time before we know the real results of the shift to virtual working.
Pitching during the pandemic and beyond
Pandemic or no pandemic, the fundamental rules of pitching still apply. All the clean-energy journalists agreed: do not pitch your product and always tell your story. And for those who may say ‘but my product is the story’, sorry to burst your bubble but it never is. The product may be interesting, but what’s more valuable to a journalist is the detail and context – the implications on supply chain, costs, jobs, safety.
Remember that the role of the journalist is to inform readers about the subjects which matter to them. In the case of clean energy this means being specific, using facts and figures, saying something to the market which they didn’t know before and making clear the impact of what you’re trying to say. Central to that is not wasting time with pleasantries and preamble as Zachary Shahan of CleanTechnica.com confirmed, saying: “jump straight to the point – give me numbers, stats and facts”.
Yann Brandt of solarwakeup took this a step further, asking both PR pros and businesses to shape his opinion on what they’re submitting and – most importantly – to subscribe to the outlet, a sentiment echoed by all panelists. Read and understand the target audience of the publication or outlet, what journalists cover what stories. In short, put the effort in.
How are clean energy journalists finding stories?
Whilst all the journalists confirmed that they still receive a lot of pitches via email and telephone, these days they found stories through other sources including Twitter and LinkedIn. We covered the importance of LinkedIn a while ago – because we’d heard similar stories from other journalists. Remember that journalists want to find the breaking news, the stories that no-one else has, Yann captured this when he said don’t be afraid to focus on one person, one story, one publication.
Where the stories are being sourced from might be shifting but what journalists need isn’t. They can spot blatant promotional copy from a mile away, and whilst some journalists may be more lenient than others on this, by trying to sneak it in you’re ignoring what’s being asked of you by the very people you need to have the relationship with.
Focus on the real story, and if you’re not sure what that looks like, stop, read, learn and revisit until you feel confident that you’re not pitching a product, but a great clean energy story contributes to the wider industry conversation.