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Telling Your Solar Story

Guidelines for communicating the solar aspect of a green marketing program

By Glenna Wiseman, Vice President, Marketing, HelioPower

At HelioPower we help our clients tell their solar story.  We work with commercial, community and utility clients creating communication programs to herald their new solar power installation.   Our efforts help them weave the aspects of a solar installation into an overall green marketing message that supports their brand.

Solar is an exciting addition to an organization’s environmental efforts.  In fact, a solar power system assists on multiple levels of a Triple Bottom Line approach benefiting the company’s people, its profits and environmental efforts (the planet).

Having successfully completed several affiliate marketing programs for HelioPower clients, this information is designed to contribute to the industry’s knowledge base and guidelines for successfully telling a client’s solar story and thus contributing to their overall green marketing message.

Nearly all of our commercial and public sector clients have worked through the normal list of “reduce your energy and energy use costs” before they adopt solar.  Way before the solar conversation starts they have harvested the “low hanging environmental fruit” of recycling, green purchasing, etc.  Past this phase, they move to implementing energy monitoring to determine peak demand usage and reduce it, and energy use overall to create cost reduction programs. Out of this information comes the use of energy efficiency technologies including lighting, motors, HVAC, etc.  Solar is not generally where they start or where they should start, unless they are building a new U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) structure. Then solar power technologies should be part of the design from the initial stages of the development.

Once solar is part of the client’s overall green building, thus environmental strategy, HelioPower works with them to communicate the role solar plays in these efforts and thus the environmental aspects of their brand.

A marketing / communication program for a HelioPower solar client becomes appropriate when we can implement the following guidelines:
• Assist our clients to communicate environmental benefits of solar
• Optimize strategic partner alliances
• Involve the community, green building, local and state government
• Utilize Internet and social media to provide transparency & communication
• Educate stakeholders
• Work as a team

Each solar promotion program will have its unique opportunities and challenges.  In order for solar promotion program to be successful we have found that it is essential to meet all of these objectives. 

HelioPower assists our clients to communicate environmental benefits of solar.  Part of our responsibility as an organization’s solar power partner is to help them gather the information needed about their solar installation.  We assist them in developing a full understanding of their solar power system, how it works, energy generation data, environmental offset data, how to explain it to their constituents and whatever information they need to communicate their solar program. 

We provide information online about the client’s solar power installation on the HelioPower website.  Our efforts are coordinated with the client’s to create information that is easy to access and captures all the correct data about the solar project. 

Affiliate marketing programs must optimize strategic partner alliances. At HelioPower we have

Bill Nye, the "Science Guy" shines light on Bob's Big Boy solar event

Bill Nye, the “Science Guy” shines light on Bob’s Big Boy solar event, supported by Canadian Solar, SMA and sponsors

the distinct pleasure of working with some of the industry’s great brands and high profile clients.  Any program that we participate in or spearhead for one of our clients must involve strategic partners in the industry and those affiliated with our client.  Communicating the solar story would not be complete without involving the solar power panel manufacturer, inverter partner, and potentially the energy performance monitoring company.  It can also involve brands that do business with the client as was the case with the Bob’s Big Boy campaign we implemented last fall.  The key is to involve those within the industry who have participated in the solar installation by way of product and those who do business with the client.

Involve the community, green building, local and state government.  One of the very exciting aspects of taking on a communication program to highlight a solar installation is involving the stakeholders in the community. 

 

Community groups gather to support Porsche solar panel dedication

Community groups gather to support Porsche solar panel dedication

We are all obviously familiar with the solar “ribbon cutting/ throw the switch” ceremony.  These are important celebrations of the commitment the client has made to solar power generation.  This type of event is the most valuable when it is an opportunity to reach out to stakeholders in the community and give them a chance to support the client. 

In the construction phase of a solar celebration or marketing program, it is our job to identify community, green building, local and state governmental groups and leaders who should be involved in a program.  And you don’t need to stop here.  You can reach out to a loyal customer base, supporters, local charity groups, and any other organization whose contribution to the program will enrich all parties involved.

Utilize Internet and social media to provide transparency & communication. Marketing messages regarding environmental strategies must be transparent and easy to find online.   This upholds the integrity of the message. 

It is critical to strategize the online aspects of a client’s solar marketing program.  The effort may be as simple as identifying the best media distribution source and insuring the joint press release is supported with accurate online information about the solar installation.  It may be a more comprehensive approach that involves a program-specific website.  Each effort is unique.  Insuring opportunities for an online program are investigated and maximized as needed is essential.

Educate stakeholders.  Telling a solar story must include programs to educate the client’s constituents.  Programs typically include communication to employees, investors, media and press, community members, etc.  When you are considering a program, think about what groups are involved with your company or client and what aspects of the solar installation would hold meaning for them.  Within a particular solar story, different themes and information will hold meaning for each distinct constituent group.  Thinking through all these “story lines” will create positive communication and honor the many groups that support or are involved with the client, and thus have some level of involvement with the solar installation.

Work as a team.  Our renewable energy industry is filled with talented, positive professionals who are a joy to work alongside and truly are impassioned by their mission within the industry.  We have the distinct pleasure to assist our clients in communicating their solar story.  Thus we work to create a team approach for each marketing program, from a relatively simple press release to solar ribbon cutting events and more elaborate affiliate marketing programs. 

It takes a dedicated team of client and solar installation company individuals to successfully design and install a solar power system. So too the best programs to tell a client’s solar story, within the auspices of their brand message, also involve a team effort.

You can reach me at [email protected].  I welcome your comments, insights and observations.