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The Why & How of Solar Blogging

Originally published on Let the Sunshine In: A Solar Power Blog.

blogTo blog or not to blog, that is the question… but is it really, for any viable solar organization? Perhaps a more pertinent question would be: “How can one not blog?” According to statistics published on the Internet, 6.7 million users currently contribute to blogging sites and 12 million users blog through social networks. The majority of bloggers are women, and these tend to be the decision makers in couples purchasing solar systems. Most importantly, 61% of consumers have made a purchase based on a blog post.

A blog is also a very cost-effective method of communication, particularly as opposed to advertising or PR (though of course it will not replace them). All any organization really needs in order to blog, after all, is a website and a qualified person, or persons, to compose the posts. If paid advertising can be said to be a jacket-and-tie type of self-representation, then blogging reveals the organization communicating informally, in sneakers and jeans so to speak – and that’s precisely what may be needed to overcome resistance on the part of your audience.

If your organization doesn’t already have a blog and decides to start one, there are several important things to do and not do. A major gaffe to avoid is to leave the decision to middle management without direct CEO involvement or even strong CEO buy-in, or, even worse, to take aside some clerical-level employee and say, “We need to set up a blog; take care of it.” A blog reflects your organization at least as much as any other part of your website, so just as much deliberation should go into its messaging, style, and scheduling as any other page on your site.

The second most important imperative is that a blog about renewable energy should be… renewable. That is, you shouldn’t – as too many organizations do – publish a handful of posts and then stop. It doesn’t look professional to do this and may give the impression that your organization has a habit of failing to follow through, not to mention the fact that the whole point of a blog is to establish an online relationship with your audience, which takes time and patience.

A third point is that you should never publish a blog post unless you have something interesting to say. The corollary to this, of course, is that you should almost always be able to find something interesting to say (or why does the organization exist in the first place?). Finally, your blog is there to tell the world who you are: it should be conceived as expanding upon the “About Us” page of your website. Never shy away from communicating what is distinctive about you.

Here are a few examples that rank high on Google listings under “solar blog.” (The present author is not, of course, endorsing any of these organizations and is not professionally connected with any of them.)

  • Pure Energies – The prime example of “telling the world who you are,” the Canadian-based Pure Energies team, led by President and CEO Zbigniew Barwicz, recently ventured to the Brazilian Amazon (the real one, not the website) to check out the indigenous Kayapo tribe and study its way of life, and recorded this trip in a series of blog posts. The team, according to their press release, “were motivated to bring the Kayapo success story to the busy homeowners of North America to showcase a pure form of sustainability, wealth and happiness.” In so doing, they are defining for their readers their core values and hoping to connect with North American customers who share those very values.
  • HelioPower – This California-based solar provider decided last Spring to weigh in on a then-recent public controversy: the “Solar Freakin’ Roadways” viral video, which promotes an ambitious project to turn the nation’s highways and parking lots into solar farms. (The blog’s author was extremely skeptical of this plan.) By commenting upon an Internet meme that the company’s customers would likely be discussing, or at least know about, the blog writer was displaying both HelioPower’s cultural awareness and its solar experience – not to mention enhancing its presence on Google.
  • Mosaic – Describing itself as “the first peer-to-peer lending platform for solar power,” Mosaic doesn’t shy away from the task of educating its readers. In the title of the post, “Home Solar for Dummies… or Anyone Who Doesn’t Work in Solar,” the guest blogger invokes the “Dummies” brand of books for beginners. In so doing, she acknowledges that the subject of solar financing can seem, for the layman, forbiddingly complicated and technical, while also implying that she will try to write about it as clearly and straightforwardly as possible. She then proceeds to give a short and sweet review of the differences between solar loans, leases, and power purchase agreements (PPAs), and to provide a brief summary of which major companies offer which types of financing. A reader would thus experience the blog as a trustworthy and informative source that doesn’t talk down to him or her.

What would be the best way to get your own blog going? First, after deciding, with significant input from top management, the purpose of the blog, who its audience should be and what kind of messages it should convey, delegate a small team of people, either in-house or freelance, to take charge of it. (A single blogger will probably not be enough, as that person might eventually be overwhelmed by other work deadlines and emergencies, and the posting schedule would necessarily suffer.) Using freelancers might be okay; however, they must know the business well, understand what the organization wants to communicate, and work harmoniously together, as they will need to strategize as well as write. However, an in-house team of three or four part-time bloggers would be ideal, because they presumably would already have expertise and a strong commitment to solar energy. But at least one experienced writer/editor among them should be put in charge to edit the others and sustain the quality of the writing.

Two schedules should ideally be maintained, one for the publication of the individual posts and another (obviously dependent upon the first) for the members of the team to work on creating them, with individual members available to substitute if a contributor unexpectedly becomes unavailable. The organization should promote the blog by, for example, including its URL on business cards (in addition to the URL of the main website). The organization should also promote it internally, by including prominent links to the blog within the site. The team members should also frequently leave comments to blog posts that deal with related topics on other websites. And of course they should always reply promptly and courteously to comments left on their own blog.

The “why” of solar blogging is obvious. The “how” of solar blogging, though this might differ slightly for different organizations, is clear. So the only question remaining is, “If you’re not blogging already, when will you start?”

For additional information about solar blogging, please contact me at my personal solar blog here.

Image: “blog,” via Shutterstock

 
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Written By

David Baldwin is a New York-based writer who has experience in both the corporate and nonprofit world, and who admits to a perfectly normal obsession with climate change and with solar energy's potential to help alleviate it. He blogs about solar at Let The Sunshine In.

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