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Solar Tour Promotional Tips for organizers

From Choppy Wicker, president of Sherwood Marketing (and husband of a reporter!)
www.SherwoodFarmGroup.com (also, see previous discussions, slides, and Terri's great suggestions)

1. News Media. --The mentality of reporters and other media news directors.

• Consider the average reporter: their daily challenge on the job is to find new and fresh material, so anything you can do to make their job easier will increase your chances of receiving publicity.
• Work collaboratively with area installers or groups so that there is one main voice (vs half a dozen sources who compete for the time of each reporter.)
• Lay the groundwork well in advance of your Tour:

-- Identify the media that serve your area, not just the big papers and TV stations, but also all the little community papers, home & living guides, cable TV stations, radio talk shows, etc.
-- Read, watch, or listen to each news outlet to get a feel for where your publicity would best fit, who the reporter is, and what sort of angle might be best.
-- It’s a good idea to offer several different angles so that each medium has something unique. For instance, the TV station might want the big story, the local context, and an interview with you or a solar customer. The little community paper wants a story about someone in their town or hamlet. The Business Review wants to know the commercial potential. The local Home & Living publication wants to know about the homeowner’s perspective, ease of construction, benefits, and resale value.
-- Rank the media for desirability for your Tour purposes and contact the most likely reporters, discuss their needs, and offer to meet them or give them additional background and materials. Bring along your Tour information, a solar toy (from a real toy to a full-sized roof panel and demonstration device), a simple brochure on PV and other solar, and an accurate list of current government incentives. Tell them the questions (and answers) that most people ask about solar.
-- ALWAYS be available for questions from the reporters. If they have a hot question and can’t reach you, you may not be happy with what they print or show. Never let a reporter end up on your answering machine. Give them your home and business phone, your cell phone, your wife or (and?) girlfriend’s phone, etc. The reporters are like birds; if there is no seed when they come to the feeder, they’ll look elsewhere. If you are the reliable Go-To Person on solar, they will turn to you not only for this event, but also whenever an expert quote is needed for future stories. Likewise, they will welcome hearing from you with any news.
-- Ask for early inclusion in the media calendar of public events. Increase your visibility as the date approaches, with larger stories or interviews. Remember: the point of “news” is that it has to be NEW. Have a Plan-B for adverse weather so that people know it’s either rain-or-shine or will be rescheduled.

2. Promotions
• Aim for a simple branding image, such as yellow balloons or yellow sunflowers. Put this everywhere… on your posters, yard signs, public service ads, handout literature, etc.
• Consider a branded “ticket” that prospects get at the event or ahead of time. This not only identifies them as part of the tour (especially if they paid a fee), but serves as advance publicity (“Ask me about Solar Tour Sept 12th 2009”.) This ticket could be a shirt badge, car bumper sticker or car window card.
• The ticket could be available in advance to people who are encouraged to go to your Tour website to perhaps get a discount if there’s a charge for Tour. Once there, it could be downloaded immediately (or capture their name first, since that’s the whole point) and presented when showing up. This is better than handing the tickets out to unqualified leads, so you get a more qualified list.
• If you bring in more money than needed for expenses, let people know where the excess will be going to (hopefully to a well-liked local charity.)
• Network and promote not only with community groups like Rotary, Scouts, etc., but also with other Green organizations. Make contact with local volunteer firefighter meetings to give PV basics (including safety) and invite them to the tour; these guys and gals are a great market and have lots of local connections. Invite the local tax assessor and building inspectors, so that they will be more solar-friendly.
• Contact your local board of realtors to offer information about solar systems and ask that information about the Tour be included in their member newsletter and calendar of events.
• Get involved with educational youth programs (like the Scouts, Boys & Girls Clubs, Y’s, and Civil Air Patrol) to spark their interest, get them started on projects, and interest their parents in coming to the Tour.
• In the months before the Tour, park your flashy Tour-mobile (or company truck) at public events such as community picnics, ballgames or other gatherings; be available to answer questions and promote the tour. If you are collaborating with competitors, work out who will cover each event (or maybe several of you are there.)
• Sell ads in your Tour Guide. You and installers, as well as related businesses (green construction, insulated windows, etc.) can fund the costs of the Guide and more.

 

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(518) 753-9528
cwicker(at)SherwoodFarmGroup(dot)com
 

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