At a time when many other sectors are struggling, the UK’s renewable energy industry is booming – not least the domestic and commercial solar power market.
Rising living costs and a growing desire to reduce our carbon footprint mean increasing numbers of consumers and businesses are turning to solar power.
Government-backed cash incentives such as the feed-in tariff, which enable householders to earn money by selling excess electricity back to the National Grid, have fuelled demand.
Installers and sellers working in the solar industry are generally seen as ethical and ‘green’. They have therefore tended to benefit from positive media coverage.
In recent years, most news editors have been more likely to give prominence to a press release about a renewable energy company than, say, an estate agent or firm of accountants.
The tide, however, could be beginning to turn. Negative stories, like this one by the Daily Mail from May, have started appearing in national newspapers with increasing regularity.
There is mounting public concern over ‘cowboy’ tradesmen cashing in on the solar energy boom, and the media is reflecting this anxiety.
The unethical practices of a tiny minority of unscrupulous installers are threatening to permanently tarnish the reputation of an entire industry.
So, as a responsible, qualified, MCS-registered installer, how can you protect your reputation and avoid being unfairly labelled a cowboy in the event of a dissatisfied customer going to the press?
The answer is by being proactive with customers who are satisfied.
Once the job is complete, ask them if they would mind being the subject of a press release for the local papers. Get the customer to talk about what a good job you’ve done and have some photographs taken.
Even if the media doesn’t use the press release, for whatever reason, print out or keep an electronic version of it. Add a copy to your portfolio or case studies to show prospective clients.
Try to do this routinely with all satisfied customers. Aside from PR, the press releases will serve as useful testimonials for your business.
And when that dissatisfied customer does come along, you’ll have a veritable dossier of evidence proving how rare it is that a customer is unhappy with your work.
Also, you will have built a strong relationship with the media in your area – meaning they will be more likely to run a fair, balanced story.
Display the press releases and case studies on your website, and use social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to communicate with customers directly.
Your industry accreditations and qualifications should also be displayed clearly on your website, preferably with an explanation of what they mean.