I read a bucket of press releases about solar companies every week, and if I’m to literally believe their words, then there are thousands of “leading” solar manufacturers and services in the world. In fact, the word “leading,” “leader,” etc has become so common and overused in press releases that it’s pretty much ignored.
What the company is really trying to say by stating that it's a “leading” solar company is, “Hi, news reporter! We’re an important solar company, so please don’t dismiss what I’m about to say because you’ve never heard of us…. Pretty please?”
Here’s a press release writing tip: It’s actions that grab the reporter’s attention, not your size or position in the industry. So, if what you’re announcing is interesting or innovative, that will catch the reporter’s attention, regardless of whether you’re one of the thousands of supposed “leaders” in solar. So forget saying that you're a "leading solar manufacturer" or whatever. It's a distraction. " A manufacturer of..." is fine and factual.
And on that note, if you’re a solar company, new or old, and you really want to be a leader and not just say it? Good! Here are five ways to act like a true solar leader. Use them.
1) Blog. If you’ve got something new or original to say about our industry, don’t keep it to yourself. A solar “leader” doesn’t stay quiet. He gets on a soapbox, and he tells people about his or her opinion and perspective. Getting people to read and respond to that blog is another matter, but if you don’t have a blog soapbox and something to say on it, you ain’t leading.
2) Consistent marketing and advertising. Leaders realize the value of getting their brand out there. If you’re not consistently investing money on some kind of advertising and promotion, then you’re just lurking in the shadows and hoping the sales guys can pull a solar sales rabbit out of their hats. The truth is that customers respect you less if they haven’t heard of you. It’s not the only thing they respect, but it’s part of it. So set aside a good chunk of your budget and lead with consistent advertising and promotion.
3) Advocate for solar. As stated earlier, leaders get on a soapbox and express their opinion. In addition, they get to know their legislators, at least locally, if not nationally. If you’re not spending a little time finding legislative solar supporters, and, yes, donating money to their campaigns, then you can’t complain when solar policies get sidelined or defunded. SEIA, Vote Solar, and other advocacy groups are one conduit to these people, but again, you want to be a leader? Have your own say too and get to know your lawmakers. Tell them your problems and concerns for solar jobs and the quality of the air that we all breathe.
4) Innovate constantly. Whether you’re a new or old solar company, keep finding new and better ways to do what you do. Like advertising and marketing, it’s a must. And by the way, the innovation doesn’t have to be in the form of a new or improved product. You can also improve your service. This is a bit random, but I’m going to say that if your company isn’t doing something new or different at least twice a year, you are not a leader. You’re just coasting along and hoping that a competitor is too lazy to change or innovate too. Not a good strategy, especially today.
5) Take solar risks. This last attribute includes some of the above points, but the bottom line is that every individual and department needs to be able to take their own risks in some shape or form. Individuals need to think for themselves towards the common goal of being a leading solar company. This could be as simple as breeding a company policy where it’s okay to go to a supervisor — or CEO — and make a suggestion or a constructive criticism. Of course, it could also be in the form of new products, acquisitions, pricing, or hiring. However, if your solar company culture is for people and departments to just do the tasks/products/work assigned, your company fails the leader test. That mindset can be changed, but …it’s risky. If it were easy and risk-free, then we really would have thousands of leaders.
That’s it: Five general ways for solar companies to act like leaders, regardless of their years in business or sales numbers.
I have to say that it would be terrific if we actually did have thousands of leaders in the solar industry. With a constant battle for the hearts and minds of the public and legislators, more than ever, we need as many leaders as possible, and so I urge you all… to UnThink solar.
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