You’ve heard about the new green economy, but do you know exactly what it means? Sustainable PR principal Tony DeFazio dives into this topic and more with Chris Jones, a local Glens Falls media professional and host of “The Bow Knows” podcast, which features entrepreneurs and business people with a desire to positively impact the world.
In the 20-minute interview, Tony educates the audience about the new green economy, the impact of President Biden’s infrastructure plan, and the role of Sustainable PR in promoting green-focused brands.
You can learn more about Chris on his website, www.chrisjonesmedia.com, or catch the full interview on his YouTube channel. (The full video is also posted at the bottom of this article.) Here are some interview highlights!
Q: What exactly is the green economy?
Tony: When you look at the industrialization of America at the turn of the 20th century, all of our manufacturing base was built on production of material goods, whether it was new cars, carriages, or textiles. There was never any consideration for the impact to the environment. Here in the Adirondacks, one of the biggest issues was the explosion of the timber industry, which then supplied building materials for the explosion of residential housing. But there was an enormously negative impact on the environment and the Adirondacks, in particular. The green economy is about building and advancing our economy with a degree of consciousness about “what are we making?” and “what type of legacy does it leave for other generations?”
..The one term I hear consistently from companies we will be representing is this notion of a full “life cycle” of a product. In the industrial revolution, there was never a consideration for the full life cycle of a product. When it was done, you threw it away, you put it in a landfill, and this is how we degraded the planet. The lifecycle of products now in the green economy are designed to take less away than you leave. That’s the fundamental definition of sustainability.
Related Article: Why Companies Need to Rethink Their Zero-Waste Initiatives
Q: Can you speak on President Biden’s infrastructure plan and how that is affecting the green economy?
Tony: I’ll explain it to you in broad strokes. President Biden, having come from working-class roots in Scranton, Pennsylvania, has centered his public policy initiatives on building back the middle class. When we say infrastructure, it is historically meant to build bridges, build roads, build or improve sewer systems — all of these things are part of this plan. In my opinion, they are critical to the long-term health and well-being of our country.
…However, President Biden also recognizes that the future of American competitiveness has to do with a clean economy driven by cutting-edge technology. I believe just over $1 trillion of his infrastructure plan is earmarked for clean technologies. We are talking about massive battery plants that will power lithium ion batteries as well as an exponential growth in solar panels. …Part of this infrastructure needs to be a public investment, whether it’s incentives, direct investment, employment, or in retraining folks who might be furloughed from older, industrial jobs into high-tech, high-paying jobs that are going to drive the technology that helps reduce climate impact.
Q: Tell us about what you do at Sustainable PR.
Tony: Sustainable PR is a public relations agency built from the ground up to serve the needs of quickly growing companies with a mission in sustainability. When I say “mission,” what that means is that these are innovators and pioneers in high-tech, low-tech, and in some cases no tech, that all share the same common denominator — they understand that we are on a ticking clock with respect to climate. There are companies that are building databases that provide all the food ingredients, for instance, so that manufacturers can quickly sort through to determine how to make new products that are sustainable. Or, online e-commerce stores that provide an eco-index for consumers, like you and me, to make educated choices that will have a minimal impact on the environment. So, we are working with all sorts of companies that are helping to shape, mold, and grow the green economy while also helping to reduce our impact on the planet.
Sustainable PR was founded in 2020, so the company is very young. Before that, I had built another company under my name called DeFazio Communications and the company is still operating with a full team and a full suite of clients. But where I am in my career, I wanted to leave a positive, lasting impact with the skill sets and the relationships that I have. I’ve always had this passion for the outdoors and a fascination with ecology and the environment. And I decided that the last leg of my career is where I’m going to combine my skills in media relations and PR with my passion for the environment. By helping companies do well we will help the planet do well, too.
Related Article: Sustainable PR’s Tony DeFazio Hits the Airwaves with ARCC
Q: Sustainable PR is a media relations firm. How do you promote the ideas that you have?
Tony: In marketing communications, you have a couple of “buckets.” It’s paid media where companies and organizations have a budget to pay for advertising for events, sponsorship, like trade shows, and then they get to control all the media, communications, and content that they want to reach their audience. Then, there is owned media. Owned media are the types of things that the organization controls as their own products, like their website, blog, e-newsletter, and so forth.
We have expertise in the third category, earned media, which is what we’ve known for years as media relations. It focuses on storytelling and engagement with independent sources of communication. So, we’re talking about journalists, podcasters, or influencers who by virtue of their expertise and years of industry training, take an independent point of view to reviewing products or services. And when they write or air a program, it is perceived to be more credible in the eyes of the consumer and the marketplace because it is understood that the company did not buy the access to get that story told. We use our relationships with media contacts nationally, regionally, and locally to get our clients’ stories told through their devices. And we do that in a lot of different ways. We write and distribute press releases, we do media tours, and even remote broadcast interviews where our clients can talk to media directly over a video conference.
As PR people, we look at calendar events that are coming up and find ways to get our clients exposure in the media. With Earth Day coming around the corner, we just felt an obligation as a PR agency exclusively designed and focused on supporting companies in the green economy, to do something to give back to the community of Glens Falls. We had over 50 people that came out to our Earth Day event, and they wrote a message or drew a picture of what sustainability means to them on chalkboards. Based upon that success, we’re going to carry that campaign to schools around the area and let students at various elementary schools engage in these boards. We think it’s a great idea that has legs.
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Q: What originally motivated you to go into public relations work? How did you decide that when you were young?
Tony: I felt early on as a kid, and this may sound strange, but I had two skill sets. One was diplomacy. I could remember breaking up fights on schoolyard grounds and getting guys to respect each other, even though they were pissed off or had very different opinions of the situation at hand. And the other skill set was that I just had a way with words. I could say things at the right time to get people to react positively.
By the time I was in my sophomore year of college, I was thinking, “I’m either going into politics to use the diplomatic skills, or I’m going to go into PR and use the sales skills.” Ultimately, I did a little combination of both. I went to Washington after graduating from Ithaca College. Then, I came back to Philadelphia, where I’m from, and joined a startup PR agency. I was the second hire and I became the first initial partner with the founder of the company.
What I found was that media relations really requires you to read the reception of reporters when you engage them. Positively, negatively, or neutral, you will get a response and I had the ability to read them well and then find a way to encourage them to cover my clients.