At long last, the White House has officially announced and promoted its solar installation. Though it wasn’t the comprehensive solar PR and educational blitz I was hoping for, it did include a blog post and a nicely produced video, below.
As many longtime readers of this UnThink Solar blog know, I’ve promoted getting solar back on the White House since 2010. Now that it’s online and publically acknowledged by the White House, how can installers use the installation to help promote their own solar installation businesses?
Unfortunately, the White House has not left installers with many educational tools to work with. They didn’t create a separate educational website or infographics about the installation, nor did the President tour the rooftop or directly talk about the installation in his recent speech announcing his solar and energy efficiency initiatives. But let’s see what we can do with what we’ve got:
1) White House blog. Actually, this blog post by the White House Council on Environmental Quality has only a paragraph dedicated to the White House solar installation. Two pieces of info are relevant: That it’s a 6.3kw system and that it’s part of the energy efficiency initiative.
2) White House video. This is the most useful marketing tool that the White House has given installers. Since it’s an official government video, it’s free of any copyright, so go to YouTube right now and grab the embed code. There’s some info here that can be used for a blog post, which we’ll get into in the next session.
5 Ways to Promote the White House Solar Installation
1) Blog about it. This is obvious, but do this only if you have a regular solar blog (and if you don’t, start one and read my recent post about blogging ROI.)
So what are you going to write in your blog? First, you’re going to include the above video, that’s a given. Beyond that it’s up to you, but I’d include a brief history of solar on the White House, including President Carter’s solar hot water panels and Bush’s installation on the White House grounds.
You could also do an analysis of the video, explaining the installation process—and how it would be different for residential and most commercial rooftops. For example, the White House butler mentions in the video that the 6.3 kW size is “typical.” That’s debatable and a good opportunity to explain that the solar system’s size will depend on many factors. Perhaps more importantly, discuss how the White House’s roof mounting is very different from the typical home roof installation, as well as the typical commercial roof installation. (Rods? Were those really necessary?)
In short, use the White House installation and the video as an educational tool. Blog it, then Tweet it, Facebook it, and include it in your newsletter.
2) Celebrate the installation with a sale. Everybody loves a sale, so why not offer a special Solar on the White House Sale to celebrate the first family residence going solar. If you want to add a patriotic element, you can also add that all panels and inverters in the sale will be made in the USA, just like the White House solar system. Advertise the sale via radio, direct mail, newspaper wrap-arounds, or even commercials.
3) Get interviewed by your local news or newspaper. This tactic is somewhat similar to the blog post content, but with a greater reach. Write a press release and/or verbally pitch your local radio, TV news, and or newspaper. The angle is that the First Family has gone solar. How is their installation different from an installation at your home? Once again, you can provide information about the usual cost of a 6.3 kW system, financing, timing, roofing penetration, and the system size. The news organization can use part of the White House video, as well as have you show differences on one of your residential roof installations.
4) Create graphics and/or infographics for social media. If there’s one thing that’s shared on social media, it’s simple graphics and infographics. So, create a “First Family Goes Solar” photo or perhaps a graphic that shows the components of the White House Solar system. Or, based on the 6.3 kW known system size, you could do a full infographic that includes estimates on the cost, savings, carbon offset, and RECs for the D.C. area, as well as the components and a picture of the White House. If you want to distance yourself from the President or politics, show just the White House, not Obama.
5) Use the White House example as part of your educational marketing materials. In addition to repurposing the inforgraphic above, you could also create a one-page paper handout that incorporates the history and information about the White House solar installation. Better yet, create a children’s version that’s either a coloring book page or a connect the dots, and/or an educational solar handout that explains the meanings of watts, cells, modules, insolation, etc.
Now, I know that some solar marketers are going to shy away from anything to do with Obama or the White House, but I think that’s a mistake.
First of all, this isn’t politics, this is history. For the first time ever, solar PV is on top of the White House. That’s a fact, not politics. If a solar prospect wants to talk politics with you, steer the person back to the solar evaluation process.
Second, as mentioned earlier, if you think the majority of your prospects are politically conservative, don’t mention Obama at all. Just mention the White House or the First Family and the historical significance. You might also mention President Bush’s installation in 2003.
Once again, this history, no politics: The White House has gone solar, and I think that everyone in the international solar industry should be proud of that fact, regardless of our political affiliations.
So use this historical installation to educate your customers, and to… UnThink Solar.
Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” is a solar marketing and communications consultant and the author of Solar Fred’s Guide to Solar Guerrilla Marketing. Sign up for the Solar Fred Marketing Newsletter, or contact him through UnThink Solar. You can also follow @SolarFred on Twitter.