VIA Makes a Big Splash in the U.S. Market

At the Cleantech Forum XXVI in San Francisco, Sterling Communications strategized, developed, organized and executed a sharp communications campaign to announce and promote the Veolia Innovation Accelerator (VIA) program to a wide range of U.S. media and cleantech companies. The purpose of launching VIA was to raise awareness and enable Veolia Environnement to build partnerships with executives and investors in the cleantech space, furthering worldwide innovation, growth and development of clean technologies in energy, transportation, waste and water.

The Challenge

Logo of Veolia EnvironnementDespite the fact that Veolia Environnement is a cleantech giant in France and a global leader in environmental services, the company enjoyed relatively little visibility or name recognition in the United States. In addition, the U.S. cleantech community seemed to have a limited understanding of the smorgasbord of environmental services Veolia Environnement offers. Mostly recognized for its water services, the company in actuality spans the spectrum of water, waste, energy and transportation.

Another challenge encountered in Sterling’s campaign to introduce VIA was to ensure proper messaging and positioning around the program. Since Veolia Environnement is a 150-year-old, $50 billion company, it has been common practice in the past for Veolia Environnement to make several acquisitions to expand its brand and the technology services offered. For this campaign, it was vital that clean technology startups were aware that Veolia Environnement’s objective for VIA was not acquisition but to form strategic partnerships. Sterling developed messaging to emphasize Veolia Environnement’s plan to leverage its financial status, connections and resources to help support innovation in the cleantech community, thereby accelerating the advancement of technologies under development.

The Approach

With several executives from Veolia Environnement committed to participating in the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco, Sterling utilized this opportunity to launch the VIA program at the conference. Sterling focused on identifying several key media influencers that were based locally, but had global news reach. Sterling organized an intimate press conference lunch to unveil the VIA program, enabling Veolia Environnement’s executives to interact and engage closely with members of the press in a low-key atmosphere. In a private gathering of this nature, Veolia Environnement could build relationships and make lasting impressions with key influencers in the cleantech community. The lunch and press conference was followed by 11 one-on-one media briefings at the Forum.

In the weeks of preparation prior to the press conference, Sterling worked closely with Veolia Environnement’s internal marcom teams to ensure the program messaging was presented with detail, clarity and validation. Sterling participated in developing the presentation, talking points, data sheets, brochure, web pages and video script, including translation from the original French. During the press conference, Veolia Environnement explained the structure and intention of its program openly, using NanoH20 as a customer reference and example of how companies benefit from the VIA partnership.

Sterling encouraged the VIA team to communicate a clear-cut qualification timeline for companies, taking a “waste no time” approach to the program. Cleantech companies have a 1/4/12 time frame to work towards, meaning a one-week response from Veolia Environnement as to whether the technology is in or out of scope; a four-week response on whether there is technical interest; and 12 weeks until a “go” or “no-go” for the project.

The Results

Sterling’s planning and outreach resulted in meetings with 33 top-tier cleantech and business media and positive coverage of the VIA program across several news outlets including TIME, Fast Company, Earth2Tech, Greentech Media, Marketwatch, Mergermarket, SolveClimate, GreenUnivers, La Tribune, L’Express, Les Echos and many others. Sterling gathered 22 media to attend Veolia Environnement’s press conference lunch at the Forum and organized 11 one-on-one press interviews. Sterling successfully positioned the VIA program as a ‘call for partners’ and raised the awareness and visibility of Veolia Environnement’s breadth of services in the U.S. cleantech community. The result? Over 150 companies applied to the VIA program in the first seven months, with 48 percent originating in the U.S. and 44 percent in Europe.

“I had not heard about Veolia Environnement before attending this press conference, but the other day I couldn’t help but notice their red logo on a Super Shuttle van picking up passengers in San Francisco. ‘See all these new things you are learning!’ I said to myself.” – BeiBei Song, Executive Producer, Essinova