Building industry public relations professional Nancy Rogers says that how you share your company’s definition of “green” is as important as the definition itself.
“Sometimes when marketing and sales people get going, they can be very promotional — that’s their job,” Rogers says. “But that can also lead to a lot of greenwashing when you’re talking about green products and services.”
Rogers and several green-experienced PR colleagues founded Green Earth PR Network in 2007. Their goal is to help businesses design and promote their sustainability messages. To do that effectively, Rogers developed Grammar of Green so marketers stay mindful of differing sustainability standards and requirements when making green statements.
“The Grammar of Green refers to how you speak about a topic or product or service,” Rogers says. “It’s about being transparent and authentic in your green message.” She has tweaked four well-known marketing principles to benefit green proponents and consumers:
Clarity. Vague references, unsubstantiated claims and statements muddled by unnecessary explanation will not advance your cause or client on the well-worn sustainability roadmap. Without the opportunity to reduce confusion, the audience will just click away.
Credibility. Boasts of being “greenest” hold no sway without substantiation. Words must be accountable. Transparency backed by third-party certification, actions, and measured success enhance your reputation.
Consistency. Each industry functions with its own jargon that is gobbledygook to the uninitiated. Build your story with facts. Use repetition to make them memorable.
Compliance. Steer clear of misrepresentation and deception to avoid regulatory red flags. You will be caught, if not by government regulators, then by independent watchdogs.
Using these principles as the foundation of green communication keeps marketers and their clients safe, Rogers says. “A lot of people have jumped on the idea of being green, which is great because it means there’s enthusiasm,” she says. “But there are also a lot of watchdogs out there, and if you make a claim, even if it’s not a government or regulatory issue, people will call you on it. It’s not in your benefit to overstate.”
Rogers says that the Grammar of Green can easily be used as a framework to communicate face-to-face or through websites or brochures. Moving forward, Green Earth PR Network hopes to share more communication dos and don’ts, and recognize good green efforts.