Blog : In Seacoast Media Group, GA gets partner capable of spreading the green word

By Jim Cavan | Mar 11, 2011 | in

A Monday afternoon at the Green Alliance headquarters in Kittery is anything but quiet. All three working desks, along with a loudly floral three-seat couch and matching chairs, stand occupied, with paid staffers and interns alike feverishly typing out blogs, spreadsheets, email contact lists, and stories – always stories.

If there’s anything the self described “green business union” is known for, it’s compiling content for and on behalf of its 94 partnering businesses – lots of it. Whether it’s their daily-updated GA Blog and Twitter feeds, radio “green-tips”, or print stories that regularly appear in local papers, it seems as if the GA brand is everywhere at once – at least here on the Seacoast.

Indeed, a large part of the GA’s success can be attributed to their prolific content distribution, which has been visible enough to help attract 2000 individual consumers into their ranks.

But it wasn’t always this easy.

When the Green Alliance first launched back in 2008, Director Sarah Brown didn’t know much about running a business, let alone how to run an organization representing multiple businesses. What she had was media savvy – sharply honed during her five years covering Russian politics for the likes of CNN, NBC and the Associated Press – and a fervent desire to tell a story.

“When I started the GA, I had the environmental background, and I had the media background. But where I was lost was in how to actually run a business,” recalls Brown. “Luckily I had a great partner who helped me learn on my feet, but at the end of every day what I really hung my hat on was my ability to tell stories about these businesses that no one had told before.”

What sets the GA apart from most boutique public relations firms – aside from an almost tunnel-vision dedication to promoting green issues – is their ability to produce publish-ready stories which go above and beyond the standard press release format.

Most PR firms simply write a press release and send it out hoping someone picks it up,” explains Brown. “What we do is write the full story and get them published in full. And even if the papers don’t bite, we’re still putting it on our blog, on Facebook, Twitter – anywhere we can. So it’s never a total loss even when we can’t get a story published in a daily or weekly paper.”

But after two years and nearly 90 Business Partners – everything from bakeries to yoga studios, construction companies to web design firms – there was still something missing from the GA ranks: a full-fledged professional media company to help bolster its reach and exposure.

That all changed last month, when Seacoast Media Group (SMG) joined the local “green business union”, bringing with them five local papers and an online site – SeacoastOnline.com – that reach a combined 30,000 people weekly.

Truth be told, SMG has had “green” on its radar for years. Indeed, Publisher John Tabor has been intimately involved in sustainability-driven initiatives and campaigns throughout the Seacoast. Tabor was one of the co-founders of Portsmouth Listens, a community-wide panel and study group affiliated with Portsmouth’s Master Plan which was instrumental in helping form Sustainable Portsmouth.

Now in its third year, Sustainable Portsmouth is known for its annual Portsmouth Sustainability Fair, held every spring as a way to bring members the community green together with green businesses, organizations and citizen action groups. Going forward, Tabor and SMG plan to further their support of Sustainable Portsmouth through sponsorship and promotion by way of the company’s growing media outlets.

For John Tabor and SMG, the decision to join the Green Alliance was as much about allowing others to talk the green talk as it was about learning to walk it themselves.

“Beyond promoting green issues and events, we see an opportunity to work with Green Alliance businesses in terms of advertising and other projects,” says John Tabor, Publisher of SMG. “We’ve got a long way to go as a company with respect to going green, so we see this is a chance to learn from other companies and find vendors who are philosophically in tune with where we want to go.”

Beyond their capacity to promote green issues and events, SMG has instituted a number of sustainability-initiatives, including: eliminating allVOCs and heavy metals from its printing process, as well as incorporating post-consumer recycled paper when feasible. The company also makes use of soy-based color inks and state-of-the art energy management systems certified by PSNH, while their new building – opened in 2007 – was built with efficiency and energy conservation squarely in mind.

With a lineup that includes the daily Portsmouth Herald, as well as four weekly papers – The Exeter News-Letter, Hampton Union, York County Star, and York Weekly – SMG has since 1997 been the region’s source for the latest in news, business, sports, and community events.