Alternative media have raised the profile of Doug Selby, shown in a photo from Teeter Talk, a blog based on in-depth conversations with people from or just visiting Ann Arbor.
Photo: Dave Askins Alternative media have raised the profile of Doug Selby, shown in a photo from Teeter Talk, a blog based on in-depth conversations with people from or just visiting Ann Arbor.

Positive publicity about green remodeling has helped Meadowlark Builders “enjoy huge success … in a down market in a really down state,” says co-owner Doug Selby, of Ann Arbor, Mich. But the green part isn’t lip service, and the publicity part goes far beyond getting on reporters’ radar screens.

“Building green is easy if you make the commitment to learning about building science and researching best practices,” Selby says. “Homeowners really care about the issue.” Homes he builds typically use one-fifth the energy of other homes, he says, and clients appreciate the relatively quick return on investment and the fact that “they flat out get a more comfortable, healthier home.”

In recent months, Selby has been featured in a wide array of local and national media, including a discussion about engineered wood in The Washington Post and a preview of his company’s LEED-certified homes in Angie’s List Magazine. He’s also a frequent source for articles about green building in the online media, including smarthome­owner.com and several widely read local news and culture blogs.

Cultivating Contacts

Selby has neither a PR consultant nor the time or inclination to be an aggressive promoter. “I don’t do much more than let reporters and editors know when we’re doing an unusual tour or [have] received some award or designation,” he says. Approaching the media “is half the battle,” he adds.

“We take on unusual projects, and if there is anything newsworthy, we’ll schedule events and [create] public interest around them. That makes a reporter’s job that much easier.” He does this by compiling a brief list of relevant reporters and editors, and then:

  • Partnering with architects and others in the community, such as board members, to increase his visibility and reach.

  • Keeping pitches short and simple, sending a brief e-mail, usually with a photo, and following up with a brief telephone message.

  • Avoiding pestering, flattering, or inviting the reporters to lunch. “Just drop the line to see what happens,” he says.

  • Following articles with a short complimentary thank-you note.

For example, to draw attention to Michigan’s first LEED platinum-certified gut-rehab, Meadowlark Builders held an “under the drywall” tour to show the general public what makes a green house. Local media were sent a one-page flyer publicizing the event, leading to articles in a local shelter magazine and two newspapers.
“We got 220 people through the one-day tour,” Selby says. He then sent out a follow-up release about the tour’s success, which led two more reporters to inquire about it and, he hopes, will generate more coverage.

Publicity “is valuable stuff,” he says. “It gets us high on search engines and really makes local people know we exist.” Plus, he adds, “everyone wants to write about green remodeling now.”