Energy Public Relations

Renewable Energy Communications Programs: How to Create Yours

By Starr Million Baker

Despite unfavorable policy conditions and lack of legislative support with the previous administration, the renewable energy industry has continued to grow. Energy capacity is up, job creation is up, and interest from investors and consumers alike are increasing. Consider these numbers:

  • Renewable energy is the fastest-growing energy source in the U.S., up 90 percent from 2000 to 2020. (Center for Climate and Energy Solutions)
  • In 2020, renewable energy jobs soared to 12 million globally, led by solar and wind job growth. (International Renewable Energy Agency)
  • Investor appetite for the renewables market remains strong, despite current economic and political uncertainties. Shares of publicly listed renewable equipment manufacturers and project developers have been outperforming most major stock market indices and the overall energy sector. (International Energy Agency)
  • Nationwide, six-in-ten adults now view climate change as a major threat to the well-being of the U.S. (Pew Research)

While the numbers continue on a positive trajectory, every stakeholder in the renewable energy ecosystem knows that’s not a given, even with a climate change advocate in the White House. All companies hoping to be successful in this ever-changing industry must be cognizant of building strong relationships with a wide variety of internal and external stakeholders. Smart, multi-faceted programs are key for the success of renewable energy communications.

5 Elements of a Successful Renewable Energy Comms Strategy

To survive and thrive in this mercurial environment, consider these five areas when planning your communications strategy:

1. National

Legislation of renewable energy policy in the U.S. is always volatile, even as analysts expect a less bumpy road under the Biden administration. And volatility is not a concept financial markets willingly embrace. Public relations efforts on the national front should include a high level of policy understanding both as it pertains to building and financing projects and willingness to take a vocal position, be it as an educational resource to media, via owned content on one’s own website, or in an effort to lobby influencers in D.C.

2. Global

Too many companies prioritize local and national efforts in their communications strategies and ignore the bigger picture. Yes, renewable energy is smart for the economy in that it creates new jobs and can lower our dependence on foreign oil. But here’s the deal: climate change and the threat posed to the environment are scientific facts. And renewable energy has a significant role to play in how we tackle the challenges this very real problem brings. It doesn’t have to be the biggest part of your story, but how your technology positively affects the Earth is certainly a valid part of your story and should be shared.

3. Local and Regional

Even though the industry continues to grow, utility-scale renewable energy projects are still relatively new in some areas of the country. A “what’s in it for me” attitude can be prevalent in local rural communities. Communications programs should always include a transparent strategy that taps into the local mindset, via community participation (events, schools, meetings) as well as local media relations.

4. Crisis

Renewable energy communicators must be prepared for crisis. What constitutes a crisis? Lawsuits, fires, tornadoes, loss of life, construction and technology failures, permitting issues, NIMBYs, protected ground issues, noise, legislative changes…the list goes on. And while knowing what you might say and to which media outlet is great, what we’ve found is that the holes in the plan lie in who didn’t get the word. That may be the local community, policy and lawmakers, or even your own team members. Where are the holes in your plan?

5. Brand

Communicating that yours is a trustworthy brand is paramount in this space. Don’t overlook how critical it is that for people to listen to you, they must trust you. Trust is built in a multitude of ways, but consistency in communication is key. While in-person touches (events, meetings, opening of your doors) were a hallmark of relationship-building in this industry for many years, COVID-era online webinars and video calls also go a long way to create the sense of community renewable energy brands need to build trust.

Solving Your Communications Challenges

All companies, large and small, in the renewable energy industry run into the same challenges communicating their value to investors, community partners, environmentalists, naysayers, legislators, and consumers. For the last decade, INK has worked to mitigate these communication challenges and tell the renewable energy story. We are passionate in our belief that the world is a better place with renewable energy in it, and we work with massive enterprises and brand new start-ups, in wind, solar, biofuels, hydro, and geothermal, to help ensure they continue to make a difference.

We’ll be digging into each of these areas in future blog posts. Check back for more information on how you can build the strongest renewable energy communications plan possible.