Celebrating five years of getting sustainable stories hit the headlines

Celebrating five years of getting sustainable stories hit the headlines
June 2024
Szilvia Szabó

Szilvia Szabó Author

Journalist, Editor
Journalist, Editor

Sustainability is carving out more space in the media year after year, still it is an uphill battle to fight for attention, especially when you have limited sources.

Fiona Donnellan, a real pioneer in this field, founded Sustainable PR public relations agency in 2019 to defy the odds and open up media opportunities for Irish eco-conscious and sustainable businesses to amplify their reach and catalyse positive change.

Now celebrating five years of actively shaping the media landscape, she shares what propels her forward:

"My focus on working with sustainable brands is a commitment to making a positive impact, resonating with consumers who increasingly value ethical and eco-friendly practices and products."

Fiona adds that sustainability and sustainable living have been part of her everyday life, and merging her passion with her profession seemed like a natural fit when she decided to leave a great job to pursue her dreams in 2019.

Fiona Donnellan, Founder of Sustainable PR

"I work with smart, eco-conscious, and sustainable brands that care about the planet, providing simple and effective PR strategies and storytelling to enhance their reputation," says Fiona.

With over 12 years of experience in PR, journalism, and communications, she is dedicated to getting purpose-driven brands the attention they deserve while promoting sustainability and ethical practices in business.

Her current and previous clients include Volvo, Etsy, Street Feast, De’Longhi, KIND Snacks, Thanks Plants, Sligo’s The Canopy, Cairde Sligo Arts Festival and Shells Cafe.

While embracing PR can seem like an inaccessible opportunity for many smaller businesses, Fiona firmly believes there is a lot of untapped potential here, regardless of the size of a company or organisation.

“I think some businesses and business owners know they need marketing and PR, but they're not quite sure how it all works, so then it can seem out of their reach or expensive, but actually, I can custom campaigns for any sized business.

I’m also so proud of how much cut-through my clients have had in the press; they’re competing with all the top brands, but they’re independently owned, sustainable Irish brands for the most part. How cool.”

When she started Sustainable PR five years ago, she recalls that talking about sustainability was more low-key and a niche area.

However, since then, it has become part of many business strategies and is getting more attention than ever.

Sustainable PR is public relations agency based in Sligo, amplifying the voice of eco-conscious and sustainable brands.

“It’s also something customers look for now when they’re buying. One recent survey I saw said 65% of customers want to buy purpose-driven brands, which is a huge shift, and that’s down to how we communicate about it,” Fiona explains.

Communication is crucial in shifting conversations about sustainability, but it is easier to be said than done to get it right.

“I have to be careful not to use too much jargon when I’m pitching stories just because I live and breathe sustainability. I have to be mindful that not everyone does, so it’s about explaining it clearly and concisely.

To break through the noise, you have to put it in simple terms, I think. Too convoluted, and your message will be lost.”

One project she has been recently working on is helping The Good Neighbour refill store communicate that they are changing locations so existing and new customers know about the move.

“I worked with the owner Jess Dollinger on a press release with all the information and sent the press release along with gorgeous images to journalists across the country.

The Good Neighbour was then featured on LovinDublin, in Irish Country Magazine, and on FM104, and Jess spoke to Dublin City FM and South Dublin FM.”

This two-month campaign was a great success, as Fiona managed to get the exposure they were after.

Jess Dollinger, owner of The Good Neighbour refill store is one of Sustainable PR`s clients.

She adds that there is no magic formula to make things work, but every press release or story can be reshaped if it`s not working, for example, by drawing on the personal story of a business rather than the product itself.

She adds that other clients might be looking for a more long-term PR campaign in the build-up to Christmas from September to December.

“Every year, I work with Emmet Bosonnet from Kopper Kreation, a homewares brand that uses reclaimed and recycled materials, to get news about his beautiful products out there.”

Building on all the learning curves and successes, Fiona is optimistic about the future and looks forward to continuing to champion sustainable brands.

“When I started out, I made a wish list of clients I’d love to work with, and I’m so proud that I got to check all these brands off my list. Time to make a new list.”

She feels the media landscape will change significantly again in the next five years, shifting from print and radio to TikTok and podcasts.

Therefore, evolving her business is inevitable to ensure she can keep up with the new trends and benefit her clients.

"There is a growing global consciousness about environmental and social responsibility, and my agency complements this," Fiona adds.

"I want to see people making smarter, mindful purchases rather than overconsuming."

Fiona’s dedication goes beyond her professional life as she takes up the role of Climate Ambassador with An Taisce, advocating for environmental education and action.

Besides, as a proud member of the 1% for the Planet movement, she is dedicating 1% of the annual profit generated by Sustainable PR to support nature conversation efforts in Ireland.

Szilvia Szabó

Szilvia Szabó Author

Journalist, Editor
Journalist, Editor