Dear solar communicators: Under Trump, our work is more important than ever

By Tor “Solar Fred” Valenza, chief marketing officer of solar at Impress Labs

Dear Solar Advocates and Communicators,

Considering Donald Trump’s negative commentary on solar and climate change, it’s clear that the President-elect is misinformed about solar energy’s costs, benefits, and its support among Democrats, Republicans and independents. In fact, a recent Pew Research poll shows that 89% of Americans favor expanding the use of solar energy to address cost and environmental concerns.

But Mr. Trump probably is not aware of this, and some might argue that he also doesn’t care. That’s why our work as the communicators, marketers and advocates for solar has become more important than ever.

He, Congress, and state and local officials must realize that voters want energy independence and energy security as well as more clean energy, clean air and more good-paying jobs. The presidential campaign glossed over these issues, and voters barely considered them when selecting their candidates nationally and locally.

Our solar messaging 

How do we communicate and advocate effectively about solar under President Trump? How do we make him care about continuing to support pro-solar policies and environmental regulations? The short answer is that Trump cares about what voters care about, and this is no different from any politician.

Therefore, going forward, we must double our efforts to make the public, and especially voters, care more about:

  • Solar jobs
  • Solar as an individual’s choice
  • American energy independence
  • Solar and clean energy as a national security imperative
  • Cleaner air
  • Adverse health effects of fossil fuels

Notice that we didn’t suggest that we make politicians care about all of those things. Of course, the solar industry needs to continue supporting our advocacy organizations like SEIAVoteSolarCALSEIA and SEPA with membership and dollars, but pro-solar likely voters are even more powerful than lobbying dollars.

The more successful and profitable we are, the more we share solar and storage stories in the traditional media and on social media, and the more people demand more clean energy for their health, the more politicians will listen to solar voters than fossil fuel politicians.

You get the point.

Solar communication action items

These are suggestions for keeping solar positive and top of mind from now until the 2018 midterm elections and going forward to 2020:

  • We know this sounds self-serving from a PR agency, but don’t cut marketing and PR budgets. Truly, the solar and storage industries need more publicity and attention and success stories in the news, not less. Trump loves winners, so we must act and look like winners, sharing our success with as many people as possible.
  • Learn the names of your local, state and federal politicians, and follow and comment on their social media channels.
  • Continue to spread the #SolarIsNow hashtag on social media, especially Twitter.
  • Share solar success stories about your customers with politicians on social media. “Hey Senator/Congressman/Mayor! Joe and Jane Jones from Anytown, Michigan, installed solar today. Please continue to support our solar business and X jobs.”
  • Give your customers a solar advocacy package that tells them who their politicians are and how to engage with them. “Hi, Senator/Congressman/Mayor. My name is Joe Jones, and I want you to know that I support politicians who support solar.”
  • Share new job hires with politicians. “Hi Senator. Just wanted to let you know we hired another solar worker this week. Please support solar jobs.”
  • Keep pitching positive solar and storage news to the media and educate them about affordability, costs, job creation, energy security and the value of solar.
  • Want to really be radical? Regularly ask your identified politicians on social media how they’re supporting more solar power and share this Pew Research link. Eventually, they’ll answer, especially if they see the same question a lot from you and your customers.

As for “fighting Trump” and being a general hater—don’t waste your time. It will only galvanize Trump, as he’s a self-professed counter-puncher. No matter what your personal feelings are, try another approach: If you must engage with Trump on Twitter, send the positive suggested messages above. Consider asking him questions like:

  • “Will you please pledge to support my solar job as president?”
  • “Did you know there are now a million solar installations in the U.S.?”
  • “Did you know that more Republicans have gone solar in California than Dems?”
  • “Did you know that the cost of solar panels and systems keeps falling?”
  • “Did you know the cost of unsubsidized solar is competitive with traditional energy in a growing number of states?”
  • “Did you know solar jobs doubled over the past 5 years to over 200K? Please continue to support solar.”
  • “I’m a Republican, and I’m part of the 89% of U.S. that wants more solar, not less. Please support more solar too.”

Clearly, Mr. Trump has changed his mind before, and if we engage and educate him and his team in the right way, he might ignore the counsel of his fossil-fuel-oriented advisers and publicly support more solar, storage, wind and other renewables.

Regardless of Trump’s lack of support, know this: solar isn’t going away. A Trump presidency may slow solar’s growth, but it won’t kill it. We are on the right (and left) side of history. We’re a huge part of the solution for jobs, energy independence, national security, clean air and climate change. Nothing will stop that march toward clean energy. Not even a President Trump.

Tom Cheyney

Cameron Crowe

Dave Richardson

Nick Richardson

Tor “Solar Fred” Valenza

And the rest of the Impress Labs team

 

Editor’s note: Reprinted with permission from the Impress Labs blog.