green public relationsYou can effectively communicate your organization’s sustainable efforts, by investing on public relations, strategy social media and  making your company open.

by Sofia Ribeiro, Founder and co-owner of Kiwano Marketing

Many companies are already doing their debut with green business strategies, but only a small percentage is communicating their sustainable efforts. From the ones that are doing so, few are actually doing it right. Why do consumers frown to green communications?

I strongly believe it has to do with two key aspects: the message tone and the medium used.

Think of the latest ad you saw, promoting the green initiatives of a popular corporation. Nine times out of ten, the tone is either compassionate, congratulatory or apologetic. These campaigns are focused inwardly (on the company) and fail to communicate the benefits for its customers. Yes, it’s grand to be environmentally sustainable – everyone should aim towards this goal – but it cannot be the sole focus of a communications strategy. This internal focus green communications tend to adopt render the campaign biased, making it less pertinent to viewers.

The second issue with most green communications is related to the medium used. A good number of campaigns go for traditional mass media such as TV, radio or even outdoors. Why doesn’t this work? Mainly because TV and radio are not the type of media that allows a two-way communication. The message sent out is meticulously crafted and tested, and puts viewers on a passive standpoint. Mass media doesn’t give incentives for customers to be heard, and this can be interpreted as if the company consciously chose that platform so campaign viewers cannot easily express their opinion. Because customers feel they’re being told to (instead of creating an atmosphere where they have a say on the matter), green mass media campaigns are likely to sound untrustworthy. The rationale in the viewer’s mind is “Companies can say what they feel like because they’re paying for this time share, and they can do whatever they choose to with it.”

So, how do you, a business owner who is implementing green business strategies, can effectively communicate your sustainable efforts?

I always feel inspired by Patagonia and how this company was able to position itself as the green business mogul of the last decades. They did it by investing considerable time in public relations. Patagonia always ensures their claims are backed by irrefutable facts and that their communications strategy goes hand-in-hand with the company’s values. Patagonia invests in marketing tactics that empower word-of-mouth, giving customers the tools to promote their products and the company. Word-of-mouth is the most powerful and credible source of information customers can have, and an organization that makes this as the main focus of its marketing strategy will be successful.

What media empowers word-of-mouth and better generates buzz around a product? Social media. Social media is the ultimate buzz-generator when used accordingly. Social media platforms promote dialogue; most often than not, customers are already talking about your brand. Social media enables you to know what they’re saying about your company, making it possible for you to look inside and tweak what needs tweaking in your marketing strategy. What better way to communicate your green business practices? By using social media and traditional public relations practices, you’re starting a conversation about your sustainable efforts. Because these are two-way communication platforms, customers feel they can talk to you, make inquiries and see for themselves that you’re doing what you claim yto do. Suddenly, your green efforts are pertinent and relevant, because your customers have a say on it.

Social media about openness, making your company open as well. You’re giving customers the option to talk with you, and they know they will hear back from you (side note: you should talk to them – if you don’t, there’s no goal in using social media to begin with). With openness you generate trust, rendering your communications (and your tone) more honest, more truthful – which is exactly what you need to be able to effectively communicate your company’s green initiatives.

© 2010, Sofia_Ribeiro. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Sofia_Ribeiro (13 Articles)

Sofia Ribeiro is the founder and co-owner of Kiwano Marketing, a green marketing services provider dedicated to support small, sustainable businesses. An experienced marketing professional and a green enthusiast, Sofia has an extensive marketing background across both small businesses and large enterprises throughout Europe and North America. Her expertise lays in guerrilla marketing and Internet marketing techniques, paired with a solid experience in copywriting and industry research. Sofia also manages a green marketing blog at http://www.kiwano.ca/blog.