Matt StewartNow the pendulum has swung back. Today, cleantech is on steady footing with a slew of market exits unimaginable just a few years ago. After a thorny adolescence, cleantech is successfully maturing through the creative destruction and unique challenges and entering the early stages of adulthood.

With that in mind, here’s a look at what communications teams must consider while cleantech grows up.

Language mom and pop can understand. Jargon doesn’t die overnight, but to go big, cleantech companies must be far clearer in describing themselves. Consider that to the average observer, a utility “demand response” program sounds downright rude, while PACE financing programs give the impression of an uncompetitive footrace. One early example of this mindshift is from Nest, which is rebranding utility time of use rates as “rush hour”— successfully communicating an awful time best avoided. Look for solar companies to continue eliminating complex ideas like PPAs and SRECs for simpler, universally understood terms like “leases,” “bonuses” and “cash back.” Before long, we’ll all actually know what we’re talking about.

O'Dwyer's Nov. '14 High Tech & Technology PR MagazineThis article is featured in O'Dwyer's High-Tech & Technology PR Magazine

More mediagenic spokespeople. Roll out the red carpet for a new breed of likeable cleantech ambassadors. Think Oprah’s lovechild, or a clean energy-oriented Trump, ideally with better hair. A reality show awaits?

Making the rise of the corporate warriors less terrifying. Expect boards to increasingly cast out the friendly engineer founder-CEO for more merciless MBA managers. That’s a good thing for market competitiveness. But it will put the onus on communications teams to cast their CEO as not just a brilliant leader, but a likeable and trustworthy human being with a compelling and credible story.

Ingredient branding galore. Companies will increasingly promote nuanced eco-friendly aspects on unlikely products and processes. Look for tires promoting recyclable content, apartment buildings showcasing energy efficiency bona fides, even utilities promoting their solar capacity on the monthly bill.

Managing killer expectations. With great successes come great shareholder expectations for future success. Executives will fall short, screw up, under-deliver. Somebody may even engage in white collar crime. Crisis planning and thoughtful management will be essential to minimize chaos and stave off a market backslide.

Eye-blearing growth. Many cleantech companies are expanding at a logarithmic scale. SolarCity went from 740 employees in late 2010 to more than 7,000 this year. Branding and communications programs must strategically scale their message and reach alongside their companies — or risk losing out on the conversation.

Some things will always be inside baseball. Selling the “Today Show” on the commissioning of a bio-based lubricant plant in Hong Kong will always be a long-shot. Unless Oprah's lovechild is behind it.

As for any industry in transition, a few growing pains lie ahead for cleantech — with brand new technology, market failures can be an engineering oversight away. Yet it’s safe to say that cleantech is quickly moving through acne-ridden adolescence and into a promising adulthood. Communications programs must adapt with them to flourish at the scale of other grown-up industries.

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Matt Stewart is a Vice President at Antenna Group.