PR campaign in times of energy crisis
We designed a strategic PR campaign for Hutira to promote the construction of the first agricultural biomethane plant in the Czech Republic. We gained media attention and a positive public feedback in terms of communication.
- Public relations: Martin Svoboda
- Content: Denisa Marynčáková
The Hutira Group consists of more than ten companies with a broad portfolio of activities – from gas and water to energy and construction. Biomethane is also one of the key divisions, with Hutira and Hutira Green Gas being the most involved companies. Last year, they supplied a large part of the technology for the first agricultural biomethane plant in the Czech Republic.
Client brief and our role
The client approached us with an interest in a PR campaign focused on the first agricultural biomethane plant in the Czech Republic, which was to be built in Litomyšl. The aim was to publicize the project as much as possible through media and public relations.
As we cooperated with the Hutira Group on other projects, an important part of the communication was to combine the PR campaign for the biomethane plant with other media deliverables for the client.
Strategy: PR with emphasis on the uniqueness of the project
Prior to kicking off the PR campaign, we defined two basic parameters. The uniqueness of the project was important for us – there is only one biomethane plant in the Czech Republic so far. Moreover, it was to be connected to the agricultural activities in Litomyšl, as it was the first solution of its kind in the country.
The second fundamental parameter of the PR strategy was the duration of the project – a biomethane plant takes many months to build. We therefore decided to define our PR activities by two main milestones – the initial announcement of the project and the definitive start of the plant’s trial operation.
Plan: Project communication in the wider context
The PR campaign was initially defined by the large time span of the two milestones. That’s why we added timeless topics concerning the future of the domestic gas industry, biogas upgrading to biomethane or the potential of biomethane in the Czech energy mix.
In this way, we also involved other important domestic parties and organizations focusing on energy or biomethane in PR communication. Their inclusion in the PR campaign multiplied the relevance of the key messages. Thanks to the chosen strategy, we were also able to publicize this unique solution in different contexts and highlight the various benefits of the project.
Challenge: Positioning during the energy crisis
An extremely important moment was the onset of the energy crisis and its reflection in the PR campaign – at the end of 2021, there was a sharp increase in gas prices. The biomethane plant project in Litomyšl was therefore initially positioned in the media as not only unique, but also as a progressive solution for the future of the gas industry.
The gradual cessation of Russian gas supplies to the Czech Republic in connection with the war in Ukraine brought new dynamics to the PR campaign. The media debate was reformatted to the issue of gas shortages, to which we responded flexibly. We therefore presented the biomethane plant throughout most of 2022 as one of the first instances of progress towards greater gas self-sufficiency in the Czech Republic.
Bonus: Regional crisis communication
Monitoring the media deliverables from the first part of the campaign, we decided to design a crisis communication strategy for the final stage. Although biomethane is an odourless gas, some members of the public mistakenly associate it with an unpleasant smell. In order to minimize the risk of a discussion about the smell from the biomethane plant, we had prepared separate statements from the client regarding this fact beforehand.
We had also defined the targeting in advance. The greatest concern was expected from the part of the public that lived near the planned biomethane plant. We therefore focused on regional media from the Pardubice Region as part of media relations. Although a debate on this topic did not arise during the start of the plant’s trial operation, the preparation of crisis communication on our part was a logical final step of the PR campaign to minimize communication risks.
Results & Evaluation
The PR campaign spanned a total of 12 months, during which we ensured nearly 130 media mentions for the client in connection with the biomethane plant project. In the media, we primarily focused on the most widely read mainstream dailies, regional media and industry titles.
Our PR communication managed to respond flexibly to the dynamic debate on the domestic energy sector and positioned the client appropriately as a progressive figure of the energy sector. Thanks to this, information about the activities of Hutira – Brno and Hutira green gas in the field of biomethane appeared repeatedly in the most widely read domestic newspapers (Právo, Deník, MF Dnes, Hospodářské noviny) and their on-line versions.
The biomethane plant project was a breakthrough for us in many respects. Thanks to the cooperation with Lesensky.cz, we managed to publicize it well and communicate its main positives to both the general and professional public.
Monika Zitterbartová, Marketing Manager of HUTIRA