As Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) matters continue to play a growing role in the responsibilities of many public relations and communications professionals, it’s essential to understand how to weave that messaging into your stories – most notably, your press releases.
ESG has become a key part of the narrative for many brands today. For example, in a recent Notified/PRWeek survey of in-house and agency communications leaders, 78% of respondents said they work on matters related to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), ESG and purpose more than they did two years ago.
Further, investor relations (IR) teams are increasingly including ESG talking points in their earnings calls, in their press releases, and as part of their wider IR communications programs.
With press release distribution being a cornerstone of an effective communications program, it’s worth asking the question – how can you best use press releases to tell your ESG story effectively?
Keep reading to learn more!
How ESG Fits Into the Context of Your Overall Messaging
“While reports show trust shifting away from governments to corporations globally, now is the best time for businesses to show they care about their communities, the lives of their employees and stakeholders, and the issues that impact us all,” said Bo Breuklander, Manager of Digital Communications at Jabil, and former Public Relations Instructor at the University of Tampa.
As consumers are more conscious now, not to mention employees and potential hires, ESG can impact the decisions these audiences make.
You want your messaging to be holistic – so be sure to factor in customers, employees and partners.
And it should amount to more than just a one-off campaign. For example, if your brand leans into mentioning ESG around Earth Day, instead of having it revolve only around that one holiday, try to weave it in throughout the year.
It’s important to share your ESG messages, ensuring they stay true to the company's values. As you share, avoiding greenwashing is always a goal, as the FTC focuses on ESG claims made by corporations. Using care not to promote overblown claims can save corporations from facing public or legal backlash. Consult your legal team so they can help you avoid making claims that may put your company at risk.
In addition, keep in mind that honesty goes a long way with prospective buyers and employees.
“People may be skeptical,” says Breuklander. “It’s important to know what that skepticism looks like and how to counter it while keeping your messaging concise. Take a good, hard look at your organization’s leadership, mission, recent statements and current sentiment.”
Don’t just look for examples from successful ESG initiatives. Instead, learn from those who failed, lied or stayed on the sidelines, Breuklander advises.
“Don’t just announce plans. Show people you’re walking the walk. Back up your stories with action and visible accountability.”
Does ESG Storytelling Differ From Other Types of Press Releases?
“The newsworthy principles for ESG stories remain the same,” Breuklander says. “You could argue ESG topics are always relevant and near-and-dear to your audience in some way. The biggest difference is with the impact. If you’re serious about making that impact and haven’t revisited your organizational mission and values, maybe it’s time to do so, or you risk losing credibility.”
To show the impact of your ESG initiatives, be sure to pair the big picture with localized stories, Breuklander explains. “Package annual sustainability or DEI data with employee efforts on the ground. Craft stories around the impacted people, inside your organization as well as the community.”
You’ve Written an ESG Press Release – Now What?
Once you’ve written a press release showcasing your ESG story, what’s the best way to draw attention to it?
According to Karen Yu, Senior Director, Global Head of Media Relations at Notified, some of the top tips include:
- Using a press release distribution service that specializes in targeting ESG media outlets and journalists.
- Subscribing to a media contact database to curate your own ESG distribution list that’s tailored precisely to your ESG content.
- Being consistent with your ESG strategy, program and messaging so journalists see that your company is serious about investing in its ESG initiatives and that it’s not just talk.
- Targeting ESG content to financial journalists and investment professionals to convey why and how your ESG initiatives will benefit the company. Investors want to know why they should invest in your company!
- Ensuring your goals are specific and driven by purpose. This will help make it easier to communicate your measurable impact moving forward.
- Adding ESG-related keywords and tags to your press release increases your release's visibility, which increases the chances of good media pick-up and coverage. In addition, it makes your release more searchable online, potentially earning it a good spot within Google. Journalists looking for news related to yours can easily find it when they use specific keywords, possibly matching the exact keywords you included.
How Do You Measure the Impact of ESG News?
If you can measure it, measure it – look at every metric possible for ESG. How does it help influence brand relevance?
Look to see how your press releases and other content are performing. Perhaps certain pieces focused on one ESG initiative are moving the needle more than others.
“Develop a variety of content, use all your available channels, and do it consistently to the point where people expect it from you,” Breuklander says. “Show the impact you have on each of your audiences."
For example, create an annual sustainability report focused on people, processes and innovation. Dedicate your Instagram to featuring employees who volunteer at schools or park clean-ups. Create programs that foster community connection, volunteerism, and belonging. Change internal policies that limit people from being who they are, like flexible holiday schedules or work environments. Then, dig into those changes over time to show investors and other stakeholders the business impact.”
Other tips to help underscore the impact of ESG initiatives include:
- Sharing historical ESG activity information as well as forward-looking goals. With benchmarks, you’ll be able to help leaders understand how far you’ve come.
- Aligning ESG reporting with the company’s financial reporting calendar helps investors better assess the overall picture.
- Looking at the impact of ESG initiatives on the company’s financial performance. These initiatives may bring additional positive impacts, for example, reducing operating costs or creating new sources of revenue.
- Using press release analytics to help understand the impact of your news – such as GlobeNewswire’s Newswire Analytics.
Top Takeaways for ESG Announcements
As you aim to get more attention for your ESG announcements, here are some top takeaways Yu says to keep in mind:
- Create a compelling narrative through consistent storytelling. Stand out from the noise by explaining, in your company’s unique voice, the reasons it set its ESG goals and how they will improve the business’s bottom line.
- Post your ESG press release to your company newsroom or website.
- Be transparent with your ESG efforts – whether sustainability efforts are successful or not - to avoid possible greenwashing labeling.
- Protect your brand by making sure you practice what you preach. ESG practice statements need to be verifiable.
- Measure your ESG impacts so that they can be reported to your stakeholders.
- Be sure to use a wire service experienced in working with companies issuing ESG press releases.
Built for PR, IR, marketing and agency professionals, GlobeNewswire gives you a wide range of options to help you build brand awareness, reach new audiences and drive earned media. Learn more today about how GlobeNewswire can help support your ESG storytelling.