From the mouths of journalists: Successfully pitching your solar story to the media

There’s no better way to learn to communicate with the media, than from the reporters themselves.

On Sept. 30, CivicAction and Emerging Leaders Network hosted well-attended panel discussion “Telling our Region’s Stories: Media Relations 101 for City-Builders”. The event’s selling point was that the panel was stacked with journalists. 

One of the topics tackled was how can advocates for social issues get their time in the spotlight? While my quotes aren’t attributed, the lessons still stand.

One panelist remarked that there will always be a market for stories and narratives. I think this is a point that solar development companies are weak on. If I had a nickel for every press release that came up on my Google Alerts for “company XYZ completes solar project under Ontario’s feed-in tariff program”, while I might not be able to retire, I’d at least be able to buy the office a round of decent coffee.

As an industry we need to start asking ourselves what overarching narrative or theme is this project a part of? How is it changing or growing the community? How is it impacting the lives of those involved? Once we can begin to tell the multi-faceted story of solar, we can better captivate and most importantly, hold the public’s interest.

Aside from the more practical advice (don’t cold call, don’t pitch on Twitter, and don’t call a reporter by the wrong name), many attendees wanted to know the secret to sustained media interest for complex, long term issues.

Solar seems to be plagued with these.

The answer wasn’t easy: pitch – and pitch hard – your small, discrete victories and what these victories mean. Solutions are news too and being able to give flesh and blood examples of how and when your solutions actually worked, is vital.

Waterfront Toronto was cited as an example of an organization that excelled at highlighting their many small wins. Their persistence built up goodwill and a grassroots support network that was able to fight back when Rob Ford came calling.

As an industry, we can build up a reservoir of goodwill by consistently sharing our success stories. In the end, everyone benefits.

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As an energy professional working in solar manufacturing, I enjoy blogging about Canada's growing renewable energy industry.

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