I've written previously about how those working in the solar industry can help journalists write better articles about solar energy and how to use current events as a PR platform. Unfortunately, it seems as though I should have also included PR advice about the danger of positioning your own product or company against another within the solar industry.
A June USAToday article highlights exactly how infighting in the solar industry of "my next-gen product is better than your dinosaur 1960's-NASA-tech" serves as fodder for mainstream press to make the solar industry look like a child throwing a tantrum. The solar industry this year has done a lot of great navel-gazing in industry magazines and blogs about where we are going next, how we are growing, and the messages we are using to get there. We are finally starting to think about whether we have tucked in our proverbial shirts and our pressed our proverbial trousers. This is great progress! It shows that we as an industry are starting to concern ourselves with a mainstream image unlike in the past where we have sufficed to giddily talk to each other about all the cool solar technology instead of prioritizing making it simple to understand and purchase for consumers.
So, understanding that solar is still a small even if rapidly growing industry, it's important even as we compete for business, marketshare, or ideaspace that we work together to create an overall positive and progressing image for our industry. Stephen Lacey, former Renewable Energy World podcast director and editor now serving as a reporter at Climate Progress, wrote a great rebuke of the USAToday article. The punchline according to Lacey,
The CNBC reporter made the story a technology issue, when in fact it’s a business and communications issue.
Solar's PR problem, as the reporter was starting to point out before he got sidetracked, was laid out in the SolarTech study: consumers need more data about how previously installed systems have worked, they need simpler proposals, they need it all demystifed.
The moral of this story for anyone, not just those involved in the solar industry? Focus on a positive PR stance and set of messages that positions why your company is new and unique. Using a negative stance where you tear down other companies and technologies not only makes you look bad and immature, it makes your respective industry look bad, too. And that doesn't help us all make progress.