I recently had the opportunity to ask a few questions of Silvio Marcacci, a PR professional with years of beltway experience and fellow climate hawk. I reached out to Silvio to learn more about his new firm, Marcacci Communications. Check out the interview and click on the logo at the end if you’re interested in learning more.
Thanks for stopping by!
Silvio, could you start off by telling us a little about yourself?
Professionally, I’m a public relations consultant who started out in Democratic politics, and moved into communications for companies and organizations a few years ago. I consider myself a climate hawk and a strong environmentalist, and think we need to advocate for reduced emissions and greater use of renewables as forcefully as possible. I also think climate change and energy policy are the two most central issues facing the world, and will only become more important in coming years. Everything else, like the economy, politics, healthcare, food, and technology will all become increasingly dependent on what kind of energy and climate decisions we make or don’t make.
On the personal side, I live outside Washington, D.C. with my wife and pug, and relax by hiking, playing softball or doing yoga.
Next, let’s turn to your firm. What led you to strike out on your own and what
needs do you see your firm filling?
The decision to start my own firm was initiated when my former job ended. I was the public relations director for energyNOW!, a television show focused on energy and climate issues, but we lost our funding and went off the air. It was pretty unexpected and made me realize two things – first, I wanted to ensure I could work for clients whose policy I supported, and second, I didn’t want to depend on anyone else for my livelihood. So, I decided to start my own company and see if I could make it work. I think there’s a real need for independent public relations help among the companies and organizations focused on renewables and climate. This communications space is crowded, with big-budget fossil fuel interests competing with all the environmental groups trying to get their message out. It’s difficult to break through this din by just putting up a website or pitching stories to reporters, so I think climate and renewable advocates need to tell their stories in a more compelling, clever, and cost-effective way in order to drive change. That’s my goal – to help companies and organizations on the right side of the issues succeed and win.
One specific distinguishing aspect of my company are our video capabilities. Our team has decades of broadcast and online video experience, and we see that as an excellent way for clients to tell their story in their own words.
Social media sites continue to grow in importance. Do you expect them to be the main focus of PR efforts in the future, or will traditional avenues maintain importance?
That’s a great question. I think any communications effort needs to incorporate social media for several reasons. First, the explosion of social media users means that people are on the Internet looking for specific content about the issues they are interested in – so there’s a community out there, ready to be engaged, on just about any issue. Social media can also exponentially increase an organization’s reach by creating an echo chamber among each social media follower’s audience.
Second, these communities have real power to organize and affect policy change. Last year’s Keystone XL protests exemplified this potential. Tens of thousands of people got educated, activated, and engaged through social media, and they turned out to stop the pipeline’s approval.
Third, social media is a tremendous driver of website traffic. In my experience, website visitorsgenerated from social media sites stay on websites longer, click through more pages, and are more apt to share content. However, I don’t think public relations campaigns can only be about social media. Traditional avenues like advertising, media relations, community development, advocacy events, and public meetings are still very important. To me, effective public relations reach people in the manner they are most open to receiving information. To some, that’s via social media. To others, it’s still by reading news articles or asking questions in person. Social media is a very important part of effective public relations, but it’s just one aspect of an overall approach.
There’s a great line on your website “We’re not a big PR company – and we don’t want to be one.” Could you expand on that idea for us?
I worked at a big public relations company for almost five years, and there were things about it that frustrated me. For instance, we charged clients a lot of money, and often couldn’t do all the activities we knew were necessary for success because clients couldn’t afford them. In addition, big firms place an emphasis on having as many clients as possible, and that can lead to work being lost in the shuffle or less attention than work deserves.
Our model is different – because we’re not a big firm that has to worry about shareholders, we have a much smaller overhead and can do a lot more for clients. We take pride in working closely with our clients and delivering effective services at a greater value than our big competitors can offer.