Communications Programs in the Renewable Energy Sector: Think Global, Act Local

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  • March 28, 2017
  • Starr Million Baker

From a communications perspective, the renewable energy sector in the US is unique in its similarity of problems. All companies, large and small, run into the same challenges communicating their value to investors, community partners, environmentalists, naysayers, legislators, and consumers. There are five key areas to consider when planning your communications strategy: local and regional, national, global, crisis, and brand. Over the course of the next month, we’re diving into each of these. First up, a closer look at local and regional considerations for communications.

Even though the industry continues to grow, utility-scale renewable energy projects are still relatively new in some areas of the country. Two attitudes can be prevalent in local rural communities, and rightfully so – 1) community members want to know what’s in it for them, and 2) they might also need a fair amount of education on what “it” is (don’t we all).

By participating in local activities, companies can tackle both prevailing attitudes at once. Communications programs should always include a transparent strategy that taps into the local mindset, be it by attending community landowner meetings, sponsoring and participating in local events, ensuring agriculture preservation, getting involved in the schools, sharing forecasts of job creation and economic development, working with the Chamber of Commerce and town, county, and community legislators to ensure permits are met and promises kept, or all of the above.

This kind of local participation will not only serve the local community (and may help to improve local sentiment), it will also help your renewable energy company understand its surroundings, build deeper connections and lasting partnerships. While you may get the added benefit of increasing brand awareness, consider that a bonus only and let the knowledge you gain from, and can give to, the community be the win here.

Another way to educate locally on your project and its impacts on the community is via the local media. These guys know the community much better than you do, have an interest in ensuring their audiences know what’s going on in their neighborhoods, and can be huge assets to your program if brought in early and often.

Who’s doing it well?

Tradewind Energy, a wind energy developer in the US, participates early and often in the communities in which it develops projects. The company invests in local schools, participates in community events, and strives to walk the walk of community participation. Sure, it takes pictures for its blog too – but, what better way to highlight what’s going on in the community?

KidWind, a group of folks taking the need for education about renewable energy to the students in local communities, is one of our favorite organizations to work with. The children are our future, and KidWind works hard to ensure that that future includes abundant amounts of renewable energy from wind.

And don’t forget Google. The Internet giant’s 20 renewable energy projects help support communities, from Grady County, OK; to Rutherford County, NC; to the Atacama Region of Chile to municipalities in Sweden. To date, Google’s purchasing commitments have resulted in infrastructure investments of more than $3.5 billion globally, about two-thirds of that in the US. These projects also generate tens of millions of dollars per year in revenue to local property owners, and tens of millions more to local and national governments in tax revenue.

These are a just a few examples of the many renewable energy companies that are thinking globally, and acting locally. And actions speak louder than words, which is why the primary components of a local communications program for your company should require community involvement.

For the last decade, INK has worked to mitigate communication challenges in the renewable energy sector and tell the truly compelling story. We are passionate in our belief that the world is a better place with renewable, clean energy in it, and we work with massive enterprises and brand new start-ups, in wind, solar, biofuels, hydro, and geothermal, to help ensure they continue to make a difference. Looking for a comms partner that gets the nuances and challenges of clean energy? Give us a shout.

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