A Baseball Cap, the #ElonEffect, and the Power of a Personal Solar Brand

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Elon Effect in relation to Tesla’s successful battery launch. What I was really referring to was Elon Musk’s very successful personal brand. He may be the CEO of Tesla and other companies, but Elon is in many ways his own media product—and a very powerful one. Whether you’re the CEO or a solar intern, having a unique personal brand can be a very powerful asset to your solar career and to your company. We all need to stand out in some way, not only to make a positive impression on our bosses, co-workers and customers, but also to make a positive impression on those who don’t think or care about solar. (If you’re shy and don’t want a personal brand, think again. Your shyness automatically becomes your undefined personal brand.) Having a successful personal brand means that people easily recognize you, know who you are, and know what you stand for. It leads to stronger connections and trust, building long term relationships that follow you wherever you go in the solar community and with social connections, as well. A Personal Example of Creating a Personal Solar Brand It’s impossible for me to tell you how to create your own personal brand in a blogpost, but I can share my own experience choosing “Solar Fred” for my blogger name and Twitter handle, and why I always where an unbranded baseball in photos and at conferences. My process involved a combination of reflecting about my customers, as well as a personal reflection of myself. When I started in the solar industry in 2008, I...

Make Mom Care: A Solar Industry Commencement Speech for the Class of 2015

Friends, faculty, parents, and graduates of 2015. I’m honored not to be standing in front of you today, ’cause let’s face it. I’m no Elon Musk, and you’re online and anxious to get on with finding a job that pays enough to cover your outrageous student loans and a modest crash pad with four roommates or less. But before you launch into your career search, I wanted to offer you some tips on getting your first solar job and keeping it through the ups and downs of our growing industry. I think it will be useful advice, but I also have a selfish hidden agenda. I’ll tell you about that later, but for now, take these tips for what they’re worth (free!) Do Your Solar Industry Homework Lord knows you’ve pulled enough all-nighters over the past 4 to 6 years, but before applying to any solar job, I’d recommend studying up on some key terminology and the issues facing the solar industry today. Yes, you’ll learn about these things first hand on the job, but if you really want to impress a solar hiring manager, tell them you know what net metering is, what solar PPA’s stand for, and why you think the ITC should or shouldn’t be extended. You don’t have to be an expert on these topics—yet—but it just shows that you care about what we care about, and that’s a plus. To get up to speed, I’d recommend reading the latest posts on Renewable Energy World, as well as Greentech Media, Solar Industry Magazine, Solar Power World, The Rocky Mountain Institute, Solar Novus Today, PV-Tech, Utility...

Nearly 60% of Renewable Energy Conversations on Twitter Are About Solar

If you’ve followed this solar marketing blog, you know I’m a huge fan of solar social media, particularly on Twitter. Now, a new market research report confirms that nearly 60% of renewable energy conversations on Twitter are about solar energy.     Moreover, of all of the online media channels, 55.7% of solar conversations are happening on Twitter, followed by online news (19.1%) and blogs (9.8%). As a contrast, the majority (40%) of online biomass conversations take place on online news, and only 19% on Twitter.     Well, that’s wonderful, but are these positive conversations about solar? That is, are people mostly complaining about solar or are they Tweeting nice things. According to this talkwalker report, solar’s online conversations are mostly neutral, but do have the highest positive sentiment of all renewables.     Okay, so what can solar marketers and communicators do with this information to promote their products and services and decrease their acquisition costs? Here are my takeaways and advice: 1) Get into the solar Twitter conversations. Despite my frequent Twitter harangue here on this blog, I realize that many solar companies are still social media wall flowers, and that’s a shame. As this report shows, people are discussing solar topics every day. The value here is not just that solar is a hot topic, but about who’s having these discussions. There are bloggers, celebrities, and politicians, as well as solar, environmental, and mainstream media reporters. Plus, don’t forget that those prospective customers who are seeking information and opinions about solar. Don’t you want to be a resource for them and have them see you...

Harnessing the #ElonEffect: Deconstructing the PR Success of Tesla’s Battery Launch

As most of the world has heard by now, Tesla and its founder, Elon Musk, launched Tesla Energy and its new battery system for homes and businesses. The event received international coverage from the media, social media, and the general public, so despite some last minute technical glitches, there’s no question that this launch was an absolute success. But how did Tesla’s PR and marketing team pull it off? From my outsider’s perspective, let’s briefly deconstruct their launch plan and see if we can’t apply these tactics for solar company launches…or not. Harness #TheElonEffect What I’m calling the Elon Effect is nothing new. This kind of media power has been harnessed before by other notable business leaders such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Henry Ford, and Tesla’s namesake, Nikola Tesla. The bottom line is that Elon Musk is a modern CEO tech celebrity brand, and he’s earned that celebrity status and all the positive (and negative) media power that goes with it. He’s earned it by having several radical visions and—so far—successfully executing on those visions. So let’s state for the purposes of this PR launch deconstruction that the Elon Effect was significant to getting media attention. After all, Tesla’s not the first company to release a battery for the home, and they won’t be the last. The good news for all storage manufacturers is that this launch has brought attention to all energy storage and its potential. Can you generate the same Elon Effect for your solar product or service? Potentially yes, but that’s a different topic. For the purpose of this product launch deconstruction, Tesla had it...

7 Ways to Market Solar Products and Services with Twitter’s New Periscope App

Note to B2B and B2C solar industry marketers: Twitter’s new Periscope app is not a fad. Unlike Google+, a zombie social network that should only be used for SEO purposes, Periscope will soon join Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn as your fourth must-have social platform for solar marketing— in all sectors. So what is Periscope? Essentially, it’s a live satellite news truck in your pocket. You pull out your iPhone, click the Periscope App, press record, and like magic, you’re recording a live event and broadcasting it to the world—for free. This isn’t YouTube. Although, YouTube is famous for its slogan “Broadcast Yourself,” it’s never live. First, you have to record a live event and then upload the video for passive audience playback. With Periscope, you’re live immediately—as you’re recording—and not only are you instantly live, a link to your live broadcast is automatically sent to your Twitter followers, so you’re also live to your Twitter following, as well. But wait, there’s more. Periscope isn’t just live, it’s an interactive live broadcast. That is, your live Twitter and Periscope audience can type in comments or ask you questions in real time. If you choose, you can respond to these questions with your voice, but not with text. Additionally, viewers can tap their screen, unleashing virtual hearts, which is the equivalent of the “Like” button on Facebook. Finally, just because it’s live doesn’t mean it can’t be recorded. Periscope retains every broadcast for just 24 hours, but you can download the recording of your broadcast into your iPhone and then upload it to YouTube, use it for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and...

Solar Fred Marketing Tip: Your Solar Brand Is Much More Than Your Logo

People rarely ask me about what goes into a solar brand, and I think that’s because solar CEOs feel that it’s just one of those marketing thingys that …ya know… kind of, sort of needs to be somewhere in the business plan, but not really. Your brand is just a logo, right? Wrong. Your solar logo, as beautiful as you may think that it is, is not your brand. It’s just a graphic representation of your brand. Your slogan or tag line is not your brand either. They’re just a verbal representation of your brand. Your company name, your mascot, your colors, your fonts, your mission statement–none of these things are your solar brand, but just different types of brand tools or symbols. So what is your company’s brand? It’s a good question, and it’s different for everyone. Fortune 500 companies will pay big ad agencies millions of dollars to help them define their brands for them, and it’s often worth it. Why? Because once you truly define your brand and your customers and employees understand that definition, then you stop being a commodity, and in today’s price-competitive world, that’s very relevant for solar companies today. Whatever sector we’re talking about, no solar company wants to be the lowest dollar per watt commodity. They’d prefer that people ask for their solar brand and even pay more than the going rate. Hence, we have the term “brand loyalty,” where customers recommend and buy the same product or service, regardless of a competitor’s lower price or innovations. We also have “brand awareness,” where new customers contact you with a built-in level...