5 Tips to Keeping Strong Local Ties for Wind & Solar Energy Developers midst COVID-19

  • AUTHOR: KAOH media
  • April 20, 2020
5 Tips to Keeping Strong Local Ties for Wind & Solar Energy Developers midst COVID-19

As digital moderators and content creators for renewable energy projects, having performed work in 26 states and three countries, KAOH Media is uniquely positioned to share insights on trends and shifts in communication with wind and solar advocates who are now confined to more time at home. Here are five tips for #windenergy and #solarenergy developers to maintain strong community ties, make your messaging as effective as ever, and keep projects on track for success. 

1. Traffic, Viewership, and Engagement Is Surging 

Surging is actually an understatement, skyrocketing is more like it.In recent weeks, KAOH Media’s digital outreach network has experienced double-digit growth, and the trend appears to be steadily rising. Coronavirus-related content spiked by over 18% in the U.S. alone, with similar gains seen around the world, from Spain to Singapore.

Our data isn’t alone. Consider these sources as further validation: 

  • GlobalWebIndex: 4 in 10 consumers are reading the news more frequently.
  • Axios: Up to 15% of all web traffic is to content explicitly mentioning coronavirus.
  • Content Square: Media site visits spiked by up to 16.8% with time on site skyrocketing up to 22.1%.

Followers of wind and solar projects are looking to their local developers for answers — project updates (even if slowed), acknowledgment of the pandemic, leadership tips for helping to #FlattenTheCurve, and content aimed to inspire strength and offer encouragement with a reminder that we’re all #InThisTogether. Despite many grim headlines, this is a great time to ‘humanize’ your efforts and really connect on a deeper level with your audiences.

KAOH’s Recommendations:

Right now is not the time to slow down social media activity, but rather the opposite. In particular, big project goals such as developing a supporter database or sparking a letter-writing campaign should still be pursued as part of a unique and timely content strategy. The tone of your messaging should shift using less project-focused content to more community-focused content, all while being sensitive to the current pandemic.

2. An Optimal Time for Paid Broadcast

KAOH’s advertising outlets consist of print publishers, radio and TV channels, and social media networks to name a few. One strength we’re known for in content creation and moderation is maximizing results with minimal (advertising) waste. Given the sensitivities of this global pandemic we’re facing, a great deal of surged traffic is shifting to local newspapers and radio stations, as well as localized social media. This resulting in an ability to take advantage of a lower-cost, higher-impact ad placement now available. Rural communities especially offer a unique advantage to optimize toward high-impact placements. This shift in traffic sourcing not only drives results, but it also creates an opportunity to support local communities and to establish or build upon relationships.  

KAOH Recommendations: 

Having a captive audience is more literal now than ever. Atop of this, small, local, rural media channels have struggled in years past, long before the pandemic. Create a win-win-win scenario by placing local ads; the media outlet receives sustainable benefit in these more troubled times, the community receives a (desired) message of value, and you benefit as both local business supporter and messenger – that’s 3 wins – one for support, another for sustainability, and a another for positive project wind/solar narratives despite COVID-19.

3. Consumption Times Are Shifting

The time in which audiences are consuming media are shifting as people are confined to their homes and small communities. Instead of the usual media spikes during commuting or meal hours, we’re seeing more of a flat rate of consumption throughout the course of the day. Across our network, we also noticed an uptick during both mid-day as well as late evening, highlighting that consumers are interacting with and discovering content online in what were previously off-peak hours.

KAOH’s Recommendations:

Given the shift in behavior, we recommend testing campaigns based not only on audience and device, but also on time of deployment. While testing, consider how different demographics are changing the timing of their interaction. Look for changing trends for when your audience is engaging with your content. To test time deployments, develop a weekly cadence for publishing in order to drive engagement and measure where/when audiences are the most active. 

4. Monitoring Opposition’s Focus

Projects facing significant local opposition are likely to see opponents shifting their focus elsewhere during the pandemic. This is an opportunity to learn more about your opposition’s resolve and focus, as well as its capacity to mobilize during unexpected obstructions. COVID-19 has inspired fundraising efforts among many groups including opponents of renewable energy, indicating their capacity to raise money for legal counsel and other relevant expenses. Opponents’ responses to the pandemic can indicate their motivation towards large-scale versus local-scale issues, and such clues can prove useful when a developer is considering projects in a particular region. 

KAOH’s Recommendations:

When opposition is near to renewable energy project, it’s important to identify it, and monitor it closely on social media (most importantly Facebook) as well as within online and print media. Pay close attention to your opposers activities; Has their messaging changed? Do they appear stronger or weaker than they were before? Does their focus seem easily distracted? Do media mentions about the project spark new conversation and sharing? Observations such as these can shed light on an opposer’s ability to stymie milestones for the project. Opponents who are able to mobilize quickly and “stay on target” during and after a crisis are adversaries worth keeping a future eye on.

5. Virtual Public Meetings and Events

Today’s virtual event technologies are robust, yet simple to use and turn-key. Features include the ability to make simultaneous calls to stakeholders in order to join a meeting, or have interested parties attend by calling a toll free number and entering a pin code. Every attendee is counted and displayed on the moderators screen. Participants can be muted/unmuted at the desire of the moderator. Listeners can also be enable to queue up questions seen by the moderator who can then choose to either read the question aloud or call upon the person to ask their question publicly. Polls/surveys/votes can also be conducted by pressing, for example, 1 for “yea”, and 2 for “nay”in addition to being able to provide more granular answers. The end result is an inclusive, orderly, and civil exchange of information. Here’s a sample of a solar project finalized from living rooms and home offices despite the coronavirus pandemic. Although there’s no mention of meeting technologies, one can safely assume that some virtual means of organized assembly was utilized.

KAOH’s Recommendations:

In the communities you’re working in, offer to donate (to the governing authority pertinent to your project) a one-time virtual meeting application that enables mass online meetings. The governing authority will have full autonomy as the moderator. The meetings can be recorded and archived, and all attendees are monitored with a time stamp of their participation. If you need some guidance on best practices and/or proven technologies contact KAOH Media. We’re helping municipalities and developers alike adopt these new and effective techniques. We would be happy to help steer you in the right direction!

Conclusion:

The COVID-19 pandemic is fundamentally changing the way in which audiences are consuming digital media, and to the like, how municipalities are conducting public business. This poses an opportunity for renewable energy developers to learn more about how supporters, opponents, and local communities at large react to changing conditions while continuing to work toward your projects’ core goals. Remember the following:

  • Continue to focus on project milestones, but update your messaging to reflect COVID19 sensitivity. Be tone-sensitive vs. tone-deaf or opportunistic in your messaging.
  • Leverage local advertising. Now’s an important and effective time for paid broadcast.
  • Pay close attention to how both supporter and opponent activity changes, and use this activity to influence future strategy. Remember to stay attuned to your audiences’ best times for engagement. 
  • Monitor movement and activity of your opposition. 
  • Push for progress through virtual meetings/events by using a technology that helps set order without exclusion – in the same way healthy, in-person public meetings are conducted.

Allan Hug is the Co-Founder of KAOH Media (pronounced Kay-oh or ‘K.O.’), a data-driven, integrated marketing, public relations and communications firm that mobilizes support for clean energy and sustainable infrastructure projects.

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