It’s my holiday vacation and I’m trying to dig into some of the latest green reading. I’m on page 24 of what I hope to be a great new book summarizing, “the most innovative solutions, ideas and inventions emerging today for building a sustainable, livable, prosperous future.” It’s called Worldchanging: A Users Guide for the 21st Century.
One thing has already stuck with me, as it is a nice way of describing what got me thinking about the role communications needs to play in bringing clean technology to the mainstream. It’s WorldChanging’s central premise for its book, summarized in four ideas:
1. We need better tools, models, and ideas for changing the world. Luckily more are being created every day.
2. The more people know about these tools, models and ideas, the better their own ideas will get, and the more ideas will become available.
3. Anyone can join the conversation, and the more people do join, the better it gets.
4. The better the conversation gets, and the more people use the tools, the more exciting the adventure becomes, and the more likely its success.
If you understand PR, bells should be ringing. How do you get the conversation going? How do you put current products and ideas in the hands of the right people to drive the adoption required to get better products, more ideas and new solutions? We have an important role to play in each of WorldChanging’s 4 ideas. And it appears that the industry is in its infancy with its approach to communications. This is understandable given the climate: solar companies can’t keep up with demand b/c of current silicon shortages, and then you bring in the ups and downs of legislation and subsidies; ethanol and alternative fuels are hot one day and in the garbage the next; wind farms are praised in places and shut down in others, etc. Add to this the immense confusion generated by the constant flow of new entrants into this industry (VCs from the tech industry with little energy background, entrepreneurs from the same, PR and marketing people ditto), and you get a PR environment of mediocrity.
The opportunity for companies to take leadership roles and move past the confusion of today is where the excitement is. What happens when silicon supply catches up with demand? The companies that sat idle b/c they were too busy keeping up with day-to-day demand run the risk of being left in the dust by the few companies and people that built their brands, educated their audiences and took a leadership role in getting the conversation going.
There is a lesson in building and paying attention to a community. It supports all of the 4 ideas above. If you look at companies like eBay, Amazon, Yahoo and Google, all of them have in some way embraced an outside community for innovation. Many of them have opened up their technology platforms to allow outsiders like you and me (although probably more tech savvy than me) to build things that can then improve the experience for their communities; i.e. tools/services that help people buy and sell on eBay or search on Google. There are hundreds of blogs discussing how these communities grow. The interesting part for me is how we can provide the right forums to ignite and grow a more mainstream community interaction around clean tech related concepts. Everyone in the sustainable and clean tech industries can only gain by more people getting involved. Clean tech is, from what I’ve observed in a short amount of time, a growing but still tight knit community. Let’s use smart PR to open it up.
Well, it began a while ago. But it’s starting to take form. Like many of us, I’ve been following the shaping up of the green movement for some time now. I’d like to think I’ve been an active participant, but in truth, I’ve been a slacker. In my professional life I’m a PR guy. Good PR guys (or gals) have one big goal: communicate a message to a designated audience. When you do it right you sell more products, shut out the competition, win an election or sustain or build a position in the market. I like PR because I like communicating and I like the competition in communicating smarter than the next guy. And, for the most part, I like PR because I get to work with good clients and good people.
What makes PR exciting? Watching effective communications change perception and drive markets and/or organizations to new places. So my personal connection: I’m a PR guy that believes in clean. I believe in the cause, and in the collective contributions each of us can make to a better existence. And most importantly, I believe we should do what we can to put this earth back on a path where it will provide similar fruits to our children and grandchildren that it provided to us.
There’s no one telling each of us what our role should be in contributing to this cause. We got ourselves into this so we all can figure out our own ways to help get out of it. One thing I’m going to do is help companies, VCs, researchers and other cool people who are building clean products and services communicate better. And in turn, they will educate their audience, displace products and services that are no longer sustainable, and the important part…grow their businesses. Ideas are everywhere in this industry. The good ones spur more ideas. Promote the good ones = drive more good ideas b/c every good idea needs a better idea.