Navigating Public Relations in the Energy Sector | Castle Conversations

Joe Curtatone, former Mayor of Somerville, and President of the Northeast Clean Energy Council (NECEC), joins Deanna LeBlanc, The Castle Group’s VP of Public Relations and Crisis Communications, for a conversation about effectively communicating in the energy sector.

Joe Curtatone: I am Joe Curtatone, president of NECEC, the Northeast Clean Energy Council. Our mission is to drive forward a just and equitable clean energy transition in the Northeast.

Deanna LeBlanc: As one of Castle’s vice presidents of public relations, I develop strategies for our energy sector clients that build brand awareness and reputation through media and stakeholder engagement. As a former journalist, I know how the media thinks. I anticipate the tough questions, and help my clients understand what makes a great story.

Today we’re going to have a conversation about effectively communicating in the energy sector.

Joe, thanks for being here. You are a master communicator in the climate, climate tech, and the energy spaces, so we’re just happy to have you join this conversation with Castle.

Joe: Well, thanks for having me, Deanna. Thanks to the Castle Group as well. Excited for the conversation.

Deanna: So, at Castle we have clients doing great work in the energy efficiency space, but we’re trying to advise how do they communicate to their customers, to our residents, about the impacts of the energy efficiency work. There are perhaps more impactful ways to share that message with their customers.

Joe: The information is important, it’s innovative, it’s technical, it can be dense. It’s really important that we crystallize, humanize, and localize, what that innovation, what that technology, what that policy is, or what that company’s doing back to people, place, and planet.

What are the benefits? From the economic impacts to the workforce opportunities to the people in the community. When we’re not clear what is factually incorrect becomes the truth. The lie becomes the truth. There is some perception from folks that the [clean energy] transition is going to cause me to lose something. It is important that we unify a very human narrative and amplify the value proposition that your life’s going to improve.

Climate PR, Messaging, and Engagement

Deanna LeBlanc: Now, when we talk about the climate crisis, we do often hear it will take all of us together to make that impact. And so, we try to help our clients help people adopt a more positive attitude of, I should do my part, I should welcome this change because, historically, there is mistrust of some of these larger institutional organizations. We talk to them about the humanizing, the getting into the community, and really getting to know the folks that are there before trying to make change.

But what do you advise for that?

Joe: The work you’re advising your clients to do around messaging and engagement, like we’re doing with our members in the greater ecosystem, is so vital to build credibility and trust.

We are essential to leading the clean energy transition because this is going to be a long-standing churning of an economic engine that will have greater impact than any past industrial revolution.

Deanna: Right. And that’s some of the advice we’ve given similar clients. You can’t show up and say, we’re going to bring this great new project to your town and expect people to be happy about it because there is historic mistrust. It’s about getting into the community, speaking with church leaders, community leaders, hearing from them, building that trust, and then talking about the project.

Joe: They have to own the work with us. When we amplify those voices outside, there’s nothing more meaningful. It takes time, but we need a sustainable, durable movement in this clean energy transition that’s not going to be transactional by any means.

Building a Plan to Reach Your Audience

Deanna: Clients often come to us and say, I need a press release. And we often pump the brakes and say, why a press release? Who are you trying to reach? A press release is part of a PR strategy, but it should not be the only part.

Joe: We’re going to do our press releases; we’re going to have the website. If we want to connect with them, it’s what you’re saying, what Castle is advising these clients. We need to show up and engage with people, just listen. It’s really that engagement, that connectivity. They’re going to be our voices and helping us earn credibility and move this.

Deanna: Yes, and you bring up a good point, right? Representation matters. We need to share stories of people that are from their town or look like them or have a similar background. When we talk about our larger clients that are more corporate, they should feel a responsibility to changing the way they talk.

Joe: It’s something we need to do every day. It’s important to recognize the history of how we haven’t led for them, or where we’ve left them behind. And it’s important to think about who those allies and stakeholders are from the people in our communities, to policy makers, to business influencers, to other leaders. And I think that’s the only way we succeed.

Deanna: Yes. Joe, thanks so much for joining me. This has been a great conversation and I look forward to continuing it.

Joe: Thanks for having me and excited to be part of the, of the message.

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Written By: Deanna LeBlanc


Outdoors of the Castle Group office