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Why ESG Deserves a Prominent Place in Your PR Strategy

November 08, 2022 (4 min read)

Gone are the days where public sentiment relies on your product alone. In fact, research has shown that many investors and customers care about a company's stance on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) stances as much as what their business does. And, in the field of PR, that means you need to add ESG research to your normal media monitoring and communications strategy. 

In our recent presentation at the 2022 PRSA ICON Event, we discussed this momentum for exposing environmental, social and governance practices—good AND bad—and why this trend means you’ve got to be at the top of your game to implement a winning ESG PR strategy.  

How BIG is ESG now? 

It may have started as an investment strategy, but these days, no brand is immune to ESG fever. If you want to earn good will and avoid bad publicity, then you need to have ESG on your radar. The Governance and Accountability Institute reports that 92% of S&P 500 companies and 70% of Russell 1000 companies published a sustainability report in 2020, both increases year-over-year. Private companies haven’t reached those levels yet, but the number of private organizations adopting ESG initiatives is certainly on the rise.  

Here’s the problem. You can’t just talk the talk. Skepticism is rampant among the public. Likewise, the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report on Institutional Investors found: 

  • 86% of US investors think companies overstate ESG progress in results disclosures; 
  • 94% also expect litigation to increase for companies that fail to live up to ESG promises; and 
  • 72% of investors globally believe companies will fall short of ESG commitments.  

Despite this, the Edelman report says, “Investors agree that companies that excel in ESG merit a premium.” What’s this mean for PR and communications professionals?  

PR deserves a seat at the ESG table 

To win over ESG doubters, companies need to do a better job of communicating about ESG performance to all stakeholders—internally and externally. A McKinsey article explains, “Poor external engagement can typically destroy about 30 percent of value,” pointing to several companies that experienced double-digit declines when ESG missteps went public.   

“Conversely,” the article notes, “being thoughtful and transparent about ESG risk enhances long-term value—even if doing so can feel uncomfortable and engender some short-term pain.” Need proof? McKinsey indicates that top ESG-performing companies grow 10-20% faster than competitors. And a Financial Times Adviser study found ESG leaders in the EU are seeing 12% higher stock returns this year—impressive given the economic landscape.  

It's not just about financial returns either. A PWC survey reveals that 86% of employees want to work for a company that aligns with their own values and 83% of consumers say companies should actively pursue ESG best practices.  

With so much at stake, PR and communications professionals need to stay on top of emerging ESG news, relevant ratings and more to keep internal stakeholders informed and to fine-tune the ESG narrative for the public.  

Becoming the voice for your organization’s ESG story 

Since consumers, investors and potential employees all care so much about ESG, sharing on this issue is a crucial aspect of effective PR and communications. Here are some ways that Nexis Solutions can help you do just that. 

  1. Track your ESG efforts in the media. Want to know how your ESG initiatives are being perceived? Our free-to-use ESG Tracker lets you enter your company’s name and see the media mentions for a quick view of how your ESG messaging factors into what’s being said. This powerful tracker also features visualizations around key environmental, social and governance factors.  
  2. Establish ESG-focused media monitoring. Poor performance on ESG—even among third parties you rely on—can easily go viral. Adding ESG terms to media monitoring helps to surface mentions related to your brand, your competitors and ESG in general so you can communicate proactively, rather than reactively. Nexis® Newsdesk, the same platform and content powering the ESG Tracker, makes it easy to establish on-going monitoring and set up customized micro-sites like our tracker to keep decision makers across the business informed in real-time to enable faster time to insight.  
  3. Share your ESG initiatives with the right media sources. Strategic media engagement allows you to set and influence the narrative, rather than being at its mercy or waiting for your PR to reach the right people. Nexis® Newswire, our news release distribution service, allows you to target ESG-specific publishers, whether they are stand-alone publications or sections in established media outlets, such as The New York Times. 

What makes these tools so powerful?  We use an unmatched process for enriching our content to make it easier to conduct searches and refine result sets to what matters most to you. This includes customizing the ESG terms you use to align with your specific commitments.  

If you’re interested in learning more about how Nexis Solutions can help you tell more compelling stories about your organization’s ESG initiatives, arrange a Nexis Newsdesk demo.