Blogs, Solar

News Comments Sections are Killing Solar’s Reputation. Why You Should Give a Shiny Penny.

Really Simple Solar Syndication

I work during the day. So do you. But I take 10 minutes to read The New York Times’ Green Inc blog for solar stories. Why? It’s good reporting, for one, but also because I know that there will usually be misinformed consumers who always repeat a lot of solar misconceptions. Worse, coal, oil, and nuclear advocates often trash solar and spread more misconceptions—or flat out lies.

So I take a little time to correct what I can, but there’s so much misinformation in many publications, and I can’t do it alone, folks. In fact, if I don’t answer these false statements and solar myths, they’re often left unanswered.

The negative effects of allowing both deliberate and unintentional solar sleights go unanswered touches every solar business. (I’ll explain how below.) And yet, your company could actually be getting free publicity by taking 5 funky minutes out of your day to leave a correcting comment or response. Here’s how you can help with the least amount of effort and the greatest benefit to you and to the solar industry. ::continue::

Step One. Read your local paper online for any solar news. If you’re a national brand, then it’s best for you to trail at least one of big national newspapers listed here: In addition, I’ll add these online only news sources:

The New York Times (Green Inc)

Slate.com

The Huffington Post

The Daily Beast

CNN.com

MSNBC.com

NPR.org

You can also set Yahoo News or Google News to aggregate solar stories for you to check out. That’s a great time saver for me.

Step 2: Search for and read any article about solar. If the reporter/blogger has made any inaccurate statements or assumptions, write a quick, polite email to the reporter or the editor and correct the error. If someone has erroneously commented or attacked solar in the comments section, politely address the error or misconception with facts.

Step 3: Check back at the end of the day or next morning to respond to any counter claims. Respond if needed. If not, Repeat Step 2 for the fresh solar news.

Response Tips:

  • Don’t advertise. “Come to Solar Fred’s for the best deal in solar!” Even if moderator allows that comment, it turns people off and will hurt your brand.
  • Stay on topic.
  • If handy, give objective website links where applicable. I often refer/cite/link to dsireusa.org/solar.
  • Be polite. No matter how sarcastic or insulting the “uninformed” commenter is, take the high ground. If you’re sarcastic, readers pay attention to the sarcasm, not the facts or point that you’re making. If they respond with more sarcasm, ignore or point out that you have responded with facts, not insults. Other readers will respect you for your cool.
  • End your comment with a “Thanks,” and your first name and/or company name underneath.
  • Split these duties with 5 people in your office. Read each other’s comments and encourage or discuss. Add your own comment, but don’t overkill your brand.

The Solar PR Benefits

  • Brand awareness. Your company gets a lot of exposure, especially for hot topics. If you don’t think brand awareness is important, think again. When they’re ready to buy in a year or whenever, would you love them to think of you first?
  • If you take the high ground described above, you come out as an authority on solar.
  • Reporters get to know you and may use you as a source for future stories or you may more easily approach them if you have a fresh solar story. Reporters like knowledgeable commenters. It confirms that people actually read their stuff. (Again, this is if you sound reasonable and factual. If you’re sarcastic, reporters will peg you as a fringe, not an objective source.)

The Solar PR Poison of Not Doing Your Part

  • Doing nothing allows misconceptions to be reinforced by the coal, nuclear, and oil lobby.
  • Doing nothing makes it more difficult to get political support for things like the Solar Bill of Rights, funding for Rebates, and BerkleyFirst type programs.
  • Doing nothing allows the misinformed media to perpetuate solar catch phrases, like “Solar is not affordable for most Americans.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read that phrase and been the only commenter to point out how Federal and State rebates with net metering makes it very affordable.

Let me finally say that if every solar business person who reads this takes the time to focus on one paper—either national or local—then you won’t be alone. You will be joined by many voices to combat the coal and oil naysayers. Even solar competitors in the same town can at least agree on this type of solar social responsibility.

Have you ever corrected reporters or comments in an on-line solar story? Share your stories below. What solar myths are you constantly correcting?

Thank you.

As always, Unthink Solar.

Photo: flickr/stylianosm.

Tor Valenza aka “Solar Fred” advises solar companies on marketing and public relations and is a partner at solar referral service SolarPowerRocks.com. Contact him through REWorld or follow him on Twitter @SolarFred.