Solar energy is a rapidly evolving industry. There are exciting advances in technology and changing policies that are making solar installation projects more affordable than before.
Journalists and editors are always looking to report on the latest trend, the next big technology, or an explainer on solar tax credit policy. While solar has been around for a while now, changes in public attitudes and government regulations are fueling a renewed interest in this clean energy source.
So how can your solar installation company get in on this good press?
We’ve got a few tips on how to reach out to the press and attract positive media coverage.
What Are Media Relations?
Media relations refers to when companies and organizations work to create relationships with print, broadcast and online media in the hopes of being a reliable source for stories and/or to get featured in a news story.
Having the media do a story about your company is known as “earned media,” as opposed to sponsored content and other paid media advertising. Earned media is extremely valuable because it gives your company a lot of credibility. You were selected by a reporter as a credible source–and didn’t have to pay to get the publicity.
But earned media can also be difficult to get when you want it.
That’s where media relations comes in.
How Can Your Solar Company Make News?
Here are a few steps you can take to increase your chances of landing that coveted earned media and help you create an intentional, positive media strategy.
Press releases – You’ve heard of press releases, certainly, but have you ever sent one? They are used to alert reporters about business news and should be reserved for your company’s biggest announcements. For example, if your company expands installation service to another state or is sold to a new owner. If you’ve never sent one, start small; type up your company’s news and send it to the business editor of your local newspaper or regional business magazine. When in doubt, reach out to a marketing company for help.
Become a go-to industry expert – Reporters and editors have to know a little bit about a lot of things, which requires relying on industry experts to quickly get them up to speed on emerging stories. Reach out to the local business editor or if you are in a large enough market, the energy and environment reporter, and ask for an informational call. Share with them some industry insights they could use in a story, such as the percentage increase in growth in solar installation in their area year-over-year, and offer to serve as their industry expert. It’s a great way to get ongoing mentions in the media and to build your company’s credibility.
Thought leadership – Becoming a go-to-expert goes hand in hand with becoming a thought leader. When someone at your company, like the CEO, is seen as a solar industry expert, it can increase your chances of being called for quotes and to appear on speaking panels. Building strong thought leadership takes time, but it can really pay off with positive press. Start by writing letters to the editor and op-eds about solar energy policy, or create a solar industry outlook guide for your region highlighting trends on the horizon.
Social media – Reporters are constantly mining social media for news and trends on their beat. Engage with editors and reporters by giving their posts likes. Then add to the conversation with your take on solar industry news.
Solar Energy News Ideas
When it comes to media relations, it helps to be newsworthy. If getting positive press is a goal for your company, think of ways to align with credible, established organizations and events where media coverage is likely.
For example, clean energy conventions, panels and forums may be an opportunity to meet reporters and get quoted (and a mention of your company) in the story.
Kevin Eigel, former owner of Ecohouse Solar in Columbus, Ohio, said collaborating with well-known organizations such as the Columbus Zoo, “was a big deal for us,” and helped get them great press coverage.
“The Columbus Zoo is very well respected,” he said. “The fact we worked with them carried a lot of weight.”
Eigel said the company also got involved in the community, sponsoring the Ohio State University team for the Solar Decathlon, a student innovation competition. This raised their profile in the OSU community and later resulted in installing solar panels at the home of the university president and dean of the engineering school.
If your company is looking for great media coverage, these tips will give you a strong foundation. Like we mentioned, media coverage is often hard to get. Calling on public relations or marketing help can save you time and get you a bigger impact, especially in competitive markets. It’s a great way to earn trust within the communities you serve–and potential customers–which will ultimately get you closer to your marketing goals.