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Building Community Acceptance When Wind Project Opponents Organize Online, But Developers Don’t

3 min. read

Under Utilization of Social Media in Wind Energy Marketing

We recently conducted the first-ever review of the use of digital tools by Independent Power Producers’ (IPPs) to build community acceptance for wind farms in host communities.

Why?

Almost three years ago, we documented that clean energy companies – particularly big wind industry players – were treating digital media as cheap distribution for product information.

At the time, we said there was a compelling case to change that because:

  • Marketing research shows that up to 60 percent of B2B customer purchase decisions are being made through online research and content before making contact with the seller.
  • Digital platforms were built for ongoing, two-way engagement that can work well in the critical, early stage of the customer’s online research.
  • However, wind companies collectively ignore these realities because they typically use digital tools as sporadic, one-way distribution of information.

Wind_Project_Collage_03

There are historical reasons why clean energy companies have been slow to update their marketing approach, but the case for more updated practices has been growing stronger. We discuss both in depth in our recent white paper, “No Time for Legacy.” But the point is that legacy thinking dominates wind companies’ approach to digital media in sales.

Wind Developers Ignore the Use of Digital Tools for Community Relations

However, public affairs is a different matter, particularly when it comes to community acceptance for wind projects. Getting wind farms built is a do-or-die proposition, with big financial downsides for developers if the community aggressively mobilizes against a project. And, securing community acceptance is getting harder, given the drastic decline of independent local news media and the increasing sophistication of a professional class of wind industry opponents.

So, we wanted to see if wind companies were treating digital platforms differently in their community acceptance efforts than they used it for sales. We inventoried the use of online tools and best practices for the top nine IPPs. Then, we conducted in-depth interviews with public affairs or community relations executives at seven of those companies.

The Importance of Digital Wind Energy Marketing

Here’s an excerpt of what four factors should shape your wind energy company’s approach to social media and digital solutions. 

Four Factors That Make Social Wind Special

1. Disruptor’s needs-to-budget ratio

The wind industry is a new sector trying to increase its market share in an older industry with powerhouse incumbents. Your budgets-to-needs ratio are upside down compared to theirs.

2. Unusually high public support

Americans overwhelmingly support wind energy. Other industries spend heavily to create the high favorability wind energy naturally enjoys. But we can only fully leverage that support through well-designed social engagement programs.

3. Our inflection point raises the impact of word choice and framing

Wind power’s move from a disruptive new sector to a mainstream competitor means continuing to grow commercial demand for wind power while keeping public support for smart policies. That unique balancing act means word choice matters − not just to search engines, but also in how other policy makers and other business leaders see us. That’s no easy feat, given the increasingly wonky, technical nature of the wind business.

4. Narrow customer base means hyper-targeting customers and greater reliance on validating influencers

As a high-ticket, B2B industrial sector, many major industry players have to focus on a tightly defined customer base (we aren’t selling beer). That requires a greater precision in targeting, a quality-over-quantity approach to social media use, and a key role for social media influencers in amplifying our message.

PR and Digital Solutions for Wind Farm Marketing

If you want to learn more about best practices for cleantech social media and clean energy marketing, you can read our extensive research in our guide: B2B Social Media For Cleantech Companies: The Ultimate Guide + a FREE B2B Social Media Checklist.

Topics: Community Acceptance