Using Content to Shine a Light on Clean Energy

Chris  Corriveau

March 03, 2015

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Silicon Valley rivals Apple and Google recently announced their (separate) commitments to major renewable energy projects. Apple announced an $850M deal to purchase solar power from a plant based in Monterey, CA. Not to be outdone, Google revealed its plan to purchase power from a wind farm 100 miles away in the Altamont Pass.

It's exciting to see these iconic brands very publicly demonstrate their commitment to clean energy. Given their enormous consumer-facing businesses, it's interesting to consider the impact of their example on people contemplating their own energy use.

Regardless of the often-heated debate around climate change, there's no question we're seeing increasingly easier consumer access to viable forms of clean energy. Perhaps the most visible instance of this is home solar panels, which companies like Sunrun, SolarCity, and Sungevity promise will generate long-term cost savings with environmentally responsible technology.

As profound as the announcements by Apple and Google are, it will take more than a few press releases and social media posts to measurably influence people's thinking about clean energy choices - especially when it's the energy fueling their homes.

Marketers have a tall order in seeking to upend people's established beliefs about public utilities and motivating them to act when the subject matter is marred by connotations about cost and viability. With these conditions, effective content strategy, planning, and execution can be the difference between facilitating legitimate consideration and falling flat before awareness has been cemented.

In delivering intelligent, relevant, and actionable information about clean energy options, there's an opportunity to elevate the situation beyond simply addressing questions and concerns and transcend to empowering people to make environmentally responsible decisions for their future.

Facing this difficult marketing challenge, here are five ideas for using content to intelligently and effectively communicate the value and ethos of clean energy technology to consumers:

  1. Take an "Outside-In" Approach: Design content to be easily digested by someone who might not understand the technology, or who could easily stumble over the jargon rife in government and utility-sponsored incentive programs. Rather than simply stating a singular point of view, showcase peer thinking via surveys, as well as expert commentary from academics for those who are interested in learning about the science behind the technology.
  2. Involve the Audience: Simple activities like quizzes are effective at getting people to identify and recall important concepts. When dealing with a technology that is the subject of considerable skepticism, it's imperative to ensure accuracy and clarity of facts as consumers cement their awareness and understanding of the options available to them.
  3. Embrace Localization: There are differences in clean energy installation availability and incentive programs across states and local ordinances creating potential for confusion. Matching users with content that is specific to their location helps eliminate this risk and streamlines the transition from consideration to action.
  4. Get Visual: Studies have shown people remember 10% of what they hear, 20% of what they read, and 80% of what they see and do. Graphical and pictorial representations can go a long way in helping people connect actions and results. Showing people the cost-savings and environmental benefit can help to reinforce the value of the technology.
  5. Continually Optimize: To ensure continued relevancy and accuracy, a content calendar can guide the selection of new and existing assets and help when planning to update or archive outdated content. This further reduces the risk of confusion from outdated information and ensures people are equipped with the most valuable insights for making a commitment. Content calendars can help take advantage of changes due to seasonality and ensure consistency with the product roadmap as it evolves.

You can see these five ideas in action on the website Extractable designed for Energy Upgrade CA - a state initiative to help Californians take action to save energy and conserve natural resources, help reduce demand on the electricity grid, and make informed energy management choices at home and at work. You can get the details on how we approached the opportunity and developed the strategy to deliver amazing results in our Energy Upgrade CA case study.

Before content can be amazing, it has to be useful. Given the competing messaging that exists around the cost and benefits of home solar installation, there's a distinct need to help people understand the facts about clean energy and their own energy use.

Starting with home solar installation, there's an opportunity to educate consumers about the collective power of individual, environmentally responsible decisions. With tech titans like Apple and Google providing a very visible commitment to clean energy practices, the moment is ripe for effective content marketing to drive home the point for consumers.