It’s devastating to see my hometown of New York so crippled by Hurricane Sandy. There are so many tragedies from this one event. Not only was there an estimated $50 billion in economic losses, but at least 38 people have died in the city alone.
For these and other reasons, New York’s billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg finally brought climate change back to the forefront of our national conversation by publicly endorsing President Obama as the best candidate to act and help prevent future losses of life, property, and business productivity.
As a powerful and successful businessman and politician, Mayor Bloomberg has made it okay (again) to openly discuss climate change in the press. Should solar companies too?
I think yes. But it will have to be done in ways that are climate solution oriented. Price will remain the biggest driver of solar sales decisions, but Bloomberg’s leadership should make it less controversial to discuss solar as a solution for climate change.
Solar companies indirectly address climate change already by providing carbon offset savings with commercial and residential solar quotes. Yet, global warming is rarely mentioned with these carbon counting graphics. So, perhaps it’s time to update that verbiage to include how “your new solar system will prevent X amount of carbon, and will help reduce the effects of climate change.”
Additionally, here are some other communication strategies that may help:
- Show and promote how safe solar is in extreme weather conditions. When properly installed, solar panels can withstand wind, rain, hale, heavy snow, and even floods. If your area is likely to be in the path of increased extreme weather, be sure to communicate how your solar products are designed to perform with these natural disasters. This not only applies to installers, but to solar products. In fact, wouldn't it be interesting to find out how your panels and inverters survived Sandy? If they did well, that's something to celebrate and promote. If there were issues, learn about these faults and redesign the next generation with new anti-climate change enhancements.
- Don’t debate climate change in literature or in person. It’s not your job to convince prospects that climate change exists. Instead, just communicate that solar is a benefit for reducing the effects of climate change. Period. If your prospect wants to engage you about the science, they’re probably looking for a debate, not a solar installation. If you think they’re serious about buying solar, steer the conversation to the other added values of solar: energy savings, energy independence, and less pollution.
- Promote your company’s climate change efforts. If you’re going to promote solar being a climate change solution, your company will have to walk the walk, too. Promote and publicize your car-pooling efforts. Convert cars and trucks to hybrids and electric vehicles, and publicize those efforts, as well. Donate to the Red Cross, or better yet, do a fundraiser for their relief efforts.
- Publicly support politicians who support action on climate change solutions. Every year, you have an opportunity to vote for local and federal representatives that support climate change energy solutions, such as wind and solar. Be public about your support for pro-climate change solution politician, and tie a press release to your candidate’s legislative actions or proposed actions on climate change.
- Join coalitions of businesses that support climate change action. Are there like-minded businesses in your city that are doing their part to reduce climate change effects? Support each other and publicize your mutual efforts. “Our solar company supports Joe’s Restaurant and The Big City Hotel for their actions to reduce the effects of climate change. Please join us and become their patrons.” Obviously, Joe’s and Big City Hotel should support you in the same way.
- Always find ways to commend climate solutions in the news, especially solar solutions. Similar to the above, if a huge and unrelated conglomerate does something huge for solar and/or climate change, stand with them. Write a press release or letter to the editor congratulating Wal-Mart, Ikea, and other big brands for going solar. Tell your customers and prospects about it too, and why you think it’s important. Their big brand credibility will help reinforce the idea that solar works and can be relied on as a climate change solution.
- Find ways to publicize the cumulative carbon offsets of your solar work. Every website should have a visual graphic that shows how much carbon you’ve installed out of the atmosphere, helping clean the air and cool the planet. You might even want to commission an infographic. Bottom line, show quantitative, graphic, visual symbols of your climate solution efforts. A picture’s worth a 1000 words, plus it encourages sharing on social networks.
While I offer these climate solution communication strategies, don’t do them because you think it’s a solar marketing gimmick. It’s not. I’ve written before about how solar companies need to have a defined purpose, and acting as a climate change solution for the benefit of current and future generations can be part of your purpose. If you don’t think of yourself in that way and use the above, customers will probably see through it and mistrust your other communications, so forget about it. Besides, if you only believe in selling lots of solar, ultimately, the effects reducing global warming are the same.
As always, I urge you to UnThink Solar—and UnThink climate change too.
Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” advises solar companies on marketing, communications, and branding. Want more solar marketing info? Sign up for the Solar Fred Marketing Newsletter, or contact Solar Fred through UnThink Solar. You can also follow @SolarFred on Twitter.