Marketing cleantech and sustainability is no easy task. It can be challenging to shift your focus from product features and benefits to insights about the big issues of concern to end-users. However, if you can make the adjustment, there are exciting rewards that come with positioning the organization as a source of insightful and trusted counsel.

The value of the brand

Research has shown that strong brands with good reputations have a 31 percent better total return to shareholders than the MSCI World average. In fact, according to the Reputation Institute, a private global consulting firm based in New York, “people’s willingness to buy, recommend, work for and invest in a company is driven 60% by their perceptions of the company, and only 40% by their perceptions of their products.”

It’s important to note that the lure of the brand is not confined to companies in the B2C sector. McKinsey has reported that B2B companies with strong brands outperform their weaker counterparts by 20 percent.

“Really strong brands are highly innovative and highly relevant,” said Kevin Lane Keller, branding expert and professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. “They are always moving forward in the right direction with products and services that appeal to people and are distinctive and different.”

Quality content counts

Commentators are constantly on the lookout for useful and engaging content, including breaking news, bylined articles, and thoughtful, expert commentary. There are few better ways to build trust and brand reputation among the individuals or groups that will ultimately purchase and use your product.

According to Roper Public Affairs, 80 percent of business decision-makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles, rather than via an advertisement. Seventy percent say helpful content makes them feel closer to the sponsoring company; and 60 percent report that company content enables them to make better product decisions.

Where to start?

It all begins with vertical media: a web of trade journals, blogs, digital news sites, and social media outlets that targets customers, plus those who influence them. There are few better ways than a vertical strategy to build a company’s reputation with the individuals or groups that will ultimately purchase and use their product.

Nearly one-third (31 percent) of the respondents in a 2013 Pew Research Center study reported that they have deserted a news outlet because “it no longer provides the news and information they had grown accustomed to.” The vertical strategy fills this void by delivering content to the sources most used by customers interested in acquiring specialized information. 

An inclusive approach

Of course, the vertical strategy doesn’t completely negate the value of traditional, or mainstream, media. The most prestigious of these channels -- which can include newspapers, magazines, television and radio -- have the potential to reach huge audiences and can confer additional authority to the topics and people they cover. 

For a variety of reasons, an integrated approach is often the best way to go. Traditional and social media typically feed on each other, sharing news and lengthening the half-life of the stories they cover. As companies with information to share become increasingly adept at digital technology and social media skills, they are also seeing more success in getting their message into the traditional media.

Negotiating the new landscape

Today’s business environment is a challenge for any company interested in building customer loyalty -- and perhaps even more so for those of us in today’s crowded and competitive energy and sustainability markets. But it’s also a time when coordinated, integrated communications designed to influence end users can pay major dividends, precisely because so few are doing it.

The best advice we offer our clients: steer clear of artificial boundaries when it comes to stimulating and managing conversations with customers by delivering engaging content to media sources that influence their decisions and behavior. 

A final word

Whether or not you take control of your story, it will be heard. The simple truth is that a customer-focused integrated communications campaign can build brand identity and loyalty more effectively than advertising and at a fraction of the cost. Embracing this will give you the power to take your organization to new heights.


Makovsky's communications experts have an extraordinary track record of helping a broad spectrum of energy and sustainability related clients communicate their value to key audiences.

Andy Beck is Executive Vice President of Makovsky’s energy and sustainability practice and general manager of the firm’s Washington, D.C. office. Prior to joining Makovsky, Andy was the Director of Public Affairs for the U.S. Department of Energy--the U.S. government’s top energy spokesperson and communications strategist. He also served as a senior communications and outreach advisor to the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and as a senior official at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Makovsky understands energy and sustainability on a deeper level, and our staff has years of collective experience working with and for companies and organizations just like yours.