With the increasing importance of climate change and renewables, every company thinks about the public relations and brand value of any investment they make in renewables. Whereas some companies are successful in maximizing PR and brand value, others are not. Here are four factors to address when designing your PR strategy for your solar investment:

1. Showcase Your Solar Investment
The business case for solar needs to be based on financial advantage to the company, whether that be tangible financial gains by saving on power costs or intangible brand impact and PR related gains. In order to capture brand and PR gains, companies get solar installed as “showpieces” for consumers. These solar installations are placed at locations that help maximize the visibility of the solar panel to potential customers instead of maximizing the sunlight and power generation, sacrificing the tangible financial gains.  There are better ways to create PR value while maintaining financial gains from the investment in solar, including:

  1. Product and service packaging that clearly displays green initiatives
  2. Separate promotional material highlighting the company’s efforts to go green
  3. A formal launch ceremony for your solar installation, with invitations to most valued customers
  4. A counter or ticker at the entrance or exit to showcase the energy saved and impact made on the environment by the solar investment such as a carbon emission reduction counter.

2. Connect to the Customer
Real PR value is leveraged when the story ties the consumer of the companies’ product or services to investment in renewables. The story should make the consumers feel that they are contributing in making a difference to the world by maintaining a relationship with the company or brand. According to the Global Consumer Wind Study 2011, 52% respondents are conscious of purchasing environmentally-friendly products, and 65% have a positive preference for climate friendly brands. 50% of consumers would even pay a price premium for a product based on renewable energy.

3. Link your Efforts to Global Dynamics
In the current financial crisis, even a small effort in reducing the burden of the nation, reducing dependence on foreign oil and supporting the local economy goes a long way. Americans are critically aware of this. 71% of US consumers would prefer that their electricity supply is based on renewable energy. 77% of consumers are concerned about their country’s dependency on other nations for fossil fuels. To maximize leverage from solar, it’s important to establish the link between your investment in solar and the economic scenario and dependence on foreign fuel.

4. Getting the Message out there
So you have a great solar installation and you have the perfect pitch to go with it. The question is, how do you get your story out there? Fortunately, there are several ways to do that. First, link up with existing programs promoting green power, such as the EPA’s Green Power Partnership or Green-e Marketplace. These programs provide assistance in reaching broad audiences. Certification and audits from independent authorities verify your claim for the customer and lend greater credibility to your story. Second, make your green credentials part of the product packaging and promotional material in a clear and visible way. Last, get feedback from your customers about what they think of your solar investments.  This in itself serves as an effective marketing vehicle. During the feedback process you have the opportunity to clearly highlight your investment in solar to your customers.

Nabeel Hussain is marketing manager at ClarySolar, a San Diego-based renewable energy company. He has over 5 years’ experience in product management and marketing strategy as well as a passion for technology and renewable energy.

[Top image credit: Arcady/Shutterstock]