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An international scoping study by the Renewable Energy Technology Deployment of the International Energy Agency delineates key elements of a successful renewable energy communications strategy. The study’s foundation is that public attitudes about renewable energy costs, benefits, opportunities and capabilities—borne from misconceptions or genuine concerns—serve as a barrier to efficient, effective and rapid renewable energy deployment. The study reviewed 15 recent government, industry and public sector case studies.
WHY YOU SHOULD TAKE A LOOK:
This scoping study provides ideas, techniques and case studies on how renewable energy can be better communicated to and by policy makers, decision makers and other stakeholders. It looks at how more targeted, effective renewable energy communications campaigns can be achieved through the use of more consistent, holistic and rigorous approaches to pre- and post-campaign development.
1. Overall Approach: approach strategy as a process with clearly defined stages, all of which should be addressed to maximize effectiveness and impact.
2. Partner and Pool Resources: because campaigns tend to have limited funding; alliances are crucial to increase available funding.
3. Pre-Campaign Research Is Essential: a better understanding of public opinion helps better define audience segments, and develop specific, targeted communications messages.
4. Define Targeted, Measurable Objectives: generate more precise definitions of target audiences; help tailor messages; facilitate a more accurate post-campaign evaluation.
5. Timing: Planning and duration affect how campaigns are perceived as relevant by target audiences. Longer campaigns can build effective distribution networks.
6. Audience Identification and Segmentation: Beliefs, values, needs, desires and interpretations vary widely between audience segments. Well-identified and segmented core audiences can avoid wasted time and money on non-relevant groups (e.g., unconcerned, already convinced).
7. Maximize Messaging: Apply insights from behavioral economics where possible to impact awareness-raising, influencing attitudes and changing behaviors. (i.e. people with a sense of ownership of renewable energy will value it more highly; people are far-sighted when planning if both costs and benefits occur in the future, but make shortsighted decisions if costs or benefits are immediate; and individuals tend to value fairness and act pro-socially, particularly if free-riding can be minimized.)
8. Competitive Campaign Creative: There’s lots of competition for your audience—innovative and emotive messaging elicits more positive responses; strive to be remembered and acted upon; use compelling and memorable stories that will be absorbed deeply enough to change perception.
9. Clarify Communication Channels: match audience segments with communications channels they value and pay attention to.
10. Be “Negative Media Proactive”: Strategy should be proactive in responding to negative media; address misrepresentation of facts in op-eds and other media outlets. Not doing so allows misinformation to spread and implies that it’s acceptable to distribute it. Actively engage with individuals (e.g. journalists, politicians, bloggers) and institutions that publish falsehoods in open forums.
11. Evaluate: Learn from mistakes; requires well-defined original objectives and budgeted funds.
Based on the above, the team identified two potential “game changers” in improving the communication of RE:
1. A survey to identify specific misconceptions held by a range of population segments and to suggest appropriate messages and communication strategies for identified target segments.
2. A “communications knowledge platform” that pools renewable energy information and knowledge (e.g., from stakeholders, trade associations, and other private sector actors, NGOs and civil society organizations). This platform could organize events; create a forum and a website-based database with information, examples of good practice in renewable energy communications, news, publications, links to useful websites with examples of good campaigns. [Sound familiar, Climate Access members? -Ed.]