Climate Tech Startups: 6 Ways to Tell Your Story to Increase Your Reach and Impact
Like a lot of people on the Propllr team, I’m worried about the climate. Like, losing-sleep worried. Almost-didn’t-have-a-kid worried. And like a lot of people in general, I occasionally have moments of extreme cognitive dissonance when I recognize: Hey, I spend all day every day working really hard on something other than solving climate change.
Except that’s not entirely true.
Because several Propllr clients (past and present) are in green tech. Several others have made commitments to be carbon neutral or otherwise practice responsible stewardship of the planet’s resources.
I always get a bump of satisfaction when we help our clients win trust and interest from potential investors and clients. But I get an extra satisfaction bump when we do that for climate-focused organizations.
I would like to help more organizations like that. And I've discovered that I can do that right here. Right now. In this blog post.
So here we go, folks. I've been snooping around on climate tech startups' websites, and I've found six common opportunities for them to reach a bigger audience, communicate their message more emphatically, and have a bigger impact.
1. Start a Blog
Remember Stella Liebeck, the lady who sued McDonald’s for millions of dollars because her coffee was too hot? Well, as it turns out, the story wasn’t quite what it first seemed (which you probably know by now).
While the media told the story of a frivolous lawsuit from someone trying to make a quick buck, the reality was that McDonald’s was knowingly selling a dangerous product, the woman who sued initially just tried to get them to settle for her medical expenses (for third-degree burns!), and the version we all heard in the press was the result of a relentless PR campaign by McDonald’s.
That’s how powerful stories are.
A lot of climate tech startups out there are doing really exciting things but not doing much to spread the word about these exciting things. Many are not, for example, blogging.
That’s a missed opportunity.
A company blog is the single easiest way to create (and control) the narrative about how your company is changing the world.
What does narrative matter, you may think. The important thing is what's actually happening, not what we say about it.
Yes, but look at the McDonald’s case. The story McDonald’s told is much stickier in our minds than the reality of what happened.
To be clear: I’m not suggesting you spin up some elaborate false narrative about your work. But I am saying that narrative shapes perception, which is a crucial part of winning people over to a new idea or technology.
The opportunity: Fill the void. Tell your story. Get your brilliant founders’ and leaders’ ideas out into the world. If you don’t communicate what you’re doing, people won’t know about it. And if people don’t know about it, they won’t be able to support it and expand your impact.
2. Commit to Publishing Regularly
I know. It’s hard. Blogging is probably the last priority for your incredibly busy team.
But an out-of-date blog often looks worse than no blog at all.
When your last post is from a year or more ago, it sends the message that your company is struggling or that it might soon be.
That may be the furthest thing from the truth. More likely, you’re so busy you had to halt everything but core business activities.
But an abandoned blog can send subtle messages. For example:
You aren’t great at time management, which is why you never get around to writing or publishing.
You aren’t good at resource planning, which is why you launched a blog you weren’t able to sustain.
You chase shiny objects (see above).
You’re strapped for cash and so have pulled back on marketing.
I’m not arguing that potential investors will go straight to your blog to assess your cash flow and management capabilities. But a blog is one signal among many that subtly communicates how you run the business.
The opportunity: If you know flat-out you can’t maintain a blog right now, don’t start one. If you’ve already started one, consider changing its title to “Resources” and removing publication dates. (More on this: Don’t Start that Blog! Don’t Write that Post!)
Alternatively, if that first section convinced you that you MUST HAVE a blog, consider outsourcing it to a freelancer or agency (which… 👋🏻). Just a single monthly post by a professional writer – which can be affordable to even early-stage startups – sends a much better signal than an abandoned blog.
3. Blog About More than Company News
A company blog is a great place to publish news (about funding, new hires, new products, etc.), but using it to publish only news amounts to a major missed opportunity.
Why? Because most startups only have truly “newsworthy” things to share every few months, at most.
What's more, “newsworthy” is a standard for media organizations – not company blogs. It describes stories that will interest people who are already customers of that media source.
That’s tricky for climate tech startups, as the products and services they’re working on are often unfamiliar to the general public. Or else they’re years away from commercial viability.
While these products and services may well be contributing to something the general public cares deeply about, they won’t know that until they have more information about the product, its context, and its potential impact.
On company blogs, you can offer all of that missing context.
The opportunity: Build the narratives that matter to your organization and the goals you’re trying to accomplish. Doing that lets you…
Signal to potential customers, investors, employees, and partners what you care about and what you stand for.
Fuel and shape external conversations in your industry (e.g., when you share a blog post on Twitter or LinkedIn).
Facilitate the work of your salespeople (e.g., if they have to answer the same questions over and over, you can write blog posts answering these questions that salespeople can share with prospects).
4. Don’t Display Performance Metrics Publicly
(“😱” – all content marketers reading this and imagining displaying performance metrics publicly.)
One thing I noticed on a couple climate tech blogs I snooped: public metrics displaying pageviews and number of comments for each post.
Do not do this.
First, it’s not industry standard, so nobody will miss it when it’s not there.
Second, the most likely outcome of doing this is drawing attention to low numbers, especially as you build your audience.
An out-of-date blog can subtly hurt credibility; public metrics can hurt it more directly, in three ways:
They show exactly how many (or few) people have seen your content.
They suggest your team is not familiar with content marketing basics (which, fair enough! You're busy solving climate change, damn it!).
They raise the question of why, if you’re so unfamiliar with content marketing, you’re spending money on it.
The opportunity: Log into your CMS and change the settings so metrics don’t display. It should take just a few seconds, once you figure out where that setting is. If you have no idea where it is, ask Uncle Google.
5. Write for Novices as Well as Experts
One thing I see a lot of climate tech startups do is provide excellent, in-depth resources for current clients: data sheets, product updates, whitepapers, etc. These are no doubt super-helpful to the clients who need them.
But often, there's nothing for those who don’t already know what they need.
That’s a big missed opportunity: what if a journalist visits your site but isn’t familiar with the science behind your product? What if a potential investor looking to break into climate tech startups stops by?
If you want to grow your audience and your impact, it’s essential to bring in people who aren’t already experts, customers, or enthusiasts. This is particularly true of VC investors, many of whom don't have a background in the hard sciences and so may feel less comfortable assessing the viability of hardtech companies. Education is essential to help them understand the risks and opportunities.
The opportunity: Step back and rethink your blog’s potential goals and audiences. Consider developing content to reach, educate, and otherwise meet the needs of various potential audiences (employees, investors, partners, customers who don’t yet know what you do is possible, etc.).
6. Hire a Professional
I’m not saying you have to write for a living to write well. But keep in mind that there are people who write for a living. Part of their craft is translating messaging, voice, tone, and more into written prose.
One mistake I’ve seen on a couple climate tech blogs is writing that goes hard on voice – but doesn’t quite land. In one instance, the intended tone was friendly and conversational, but it came off as almost caricaturish.
I get it! I poured way too much peppermint extract into my first batch of mint chocolate chip cookies. They were unbearable. But I’m not a baker and I was improvising.
Writing is similar: a little “voice” goes a long way. What's more, your audience has instantaneous access to the world’s best content (written and otherwise) at all times. Even if they are not themselves writers, they’ll know as readers if your tone feels off. (Just as even non-bakers could tell that my death-by-mint cookies were disgusting.)
The opportunity: Work with a freelancer or ghostwriter who can talk to your team and translate their ideas into compelling written content. The outcome, when this is done well, is that your brightest minds sound as brilliant on the page as their peers know them to be in real life.
Self-serving? You bet. If all you climate tech startups hire professional writers, my grandkids might just have a habitable place to live one day! Huzzah!
It’s Okay (and Even Good) to Talk About Yourself
I get it. You're well mannered. You’re busy. But telling the story of your work is an important part of scaling that work. If you’d like to ask questions about your particular situation, please get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org). I am extremely invested in preserving this planet. I would love to help.