Posted At: September 21, 2009 12:25 PM
by Alysar Alameddin
It seems like everywhere people look, something new is going green. Public relations agencies can now be added to the list. Environmental PR Group, based in Tampa Bay, Fla., is a public relations, marketing and advertising firm that has gone green in every aspect of running a public relations agency. They focus on explaining complex problems to a skeptical public, managing tough environmental conflicts, educating the public, developing constituencies to support projects and policies, and researching and marketing environmental technologies, goods and services. Environmental PR Group has been in business 12 years and lives by the philosophy, “We work for people we like and causes we believe in. Seriously.”
Dr. Honey Rand, founder of Environmental PR Group, first opened her company as a general purpose PR agency in 1997. Rand had a good reputation from many years of previous public relations work, so she did not have a problem building a clientele list and her agency grew fast. It was not until a year and a half later that the idea of an environmental public relations agency came to mind.
“After a year and a half of owning and running my own agency, I was completely unhappy,” Rand said. “We had grown to 13 employees and I realized that when I wasn’t working on environmental matters, I wasn’t happy. I took a few days to reevaluate the situation. I came back, told a few people they could stay and everyone else they had 30 days to find work elsewhere. I have always refused to work on things I don’t believe in. It’s just that environmental work is really what I love. I’d had a 15-year career working on many things other than the environment prior to this. So I started over with Environmental PR Group, an agency that, like our philosophy says, work for people we like and causes we believe in.”
Rand said the best part of Environmental PR Group is sharing the values she and her staff believe in. “Our philosophy is one of the only differences between the original agency and current agency,” Rand said. “In a management sense, the agency is run the same way as any other public relations agency. But our philosophy makes a huge difference in the way we do business because it all is something we truly believe in and want to see through to the end. Our work consists of clients that are from the public sector, private sector, government, for profit and nonprofit.”
Environmental PR Group is different among other public relations agencies, both statewide and national, because every aspect of the agency is environmentally conscious. Occasionally, the agency will work on non-environmental issues for a friend, but that is the exception. She said there are other agencies who take on green clients, but their agencies have environmental work as something they do in addition to their other work. Rand said it is extremely hard to find employees because the person has to have many different qualities.
“I think one of the hardest parts about owning my own agency is finding employees based on the values of the agency,” Rand said. “We want to find individuals who have the expertise and passion, but also have a good work ethic. It was more of a problem five years ago, but it’s still not easy to find people who can think, write and speak and who have a passion for this kind of work and this subject.”
Aside from its Web site, Rand said Environmental PR Group does not market its services in any other way. She said the staff does good work that gets noticed and people talk.
“I don’t ‘network’, but I do go to many conferences and see people I know who send projects my way,” Rand said. “At Environmental PR Group, we do good work and people see it and more work just keeps coming.”
Many would think the best way to promote environmentally friendly clients would be to say they are “being green” or that the product is considered “green.” But Rand said it is the opposite for her agency.
“The best way to promote our clients is not by saying they’re green,” Rand said. “We talk about the bottom line. We talk about saving money, long-term stability and natural resources. We believe substance works best. Going green is a fad, but the rest of these ideas are real and will be real for a long time.”
Rand said that beyond the paid work, the company spends time on special projects –pro bono — or unpaid work. The latest effort is to slow the expansion of drilling for fossil fuels around Florida’s coast.
She said it is important to remember that even with public and media support, you don’t always win. And, just because the public and media are against you, doesn’t mean the cause is bad. “It’s complicated,” Rand said.
Still, Rand said she can’t imagine going to work every day and not loving what you do. “When the hours are long and the issues are hard, liking the client and believing in their product, policy or service makes all the difference.”
Photo by Rachel Reynolds