It’s official: Donald Trump is now POTUS, and he wasted no time unveiling a pro-fossil fuel energy agenda that omits any mention of solar, wind and other renewables—as if they weren’t the leading U.S. energy job creators today. Sad.
The good news is that solar, wind and other renewables are increasingly cost-competitive and replacing fossil fuels, so our continuing success will be one very visible advocacy voice. Nevertheless, we must keep our job creation engine top of mind for local and national legislators who might forget our positive economic contributions. But how? What can individual renewables companies do to keep our job stories in the forefront without hiring expensive individual lobbyists?
Here’s a low-cost, six-step guerilla solar advocacy plan for solar, storage, wind and other clean energy companies. It’s pretty simple. All you have to do is commit to it, spread it, and actually use it.
You should still support your local and national clean energy organizations with dollars and time, but someone in your organization must also own this plan and execute it.
Step One: Designate a part-time advocate or team
All those template emails that you receive every day may not have the desired impact. A former congressional staffer admitted that email campaigns are largely ignored, but individual voters are not. Therefore, politicians must view your company as a group of individual voters who are closely paying attention to renewables issues and how their representatives vote.
Executing this plan will take some initial effort by one or more individuals, but after some initial organization, the actual work should take no more than an hour or two per month. If these responsibilities are divided among several committed team members, the time needed will be reduced even further.
Step Two: Identify all of your representatives
Create a list with the name, email address and telephone number of the following:
- Your representative in Congress
- Your two U.S. senators
- Your governor
- Your mayor
- Your upper-house representative (typically state senator)
- Your lower-house representative (typically state assembly)
We’re talking six people. That’s it. You can do this. If you feel like going further, you can drill down to your county and city officials, but the above short list should be the minimum.
Step Three: Identify pending and new legislation
Ask your local or national renewable advocacy organization to give you insights as to what’s hot and what’s not in your zip code for 2017. Thank them with as generous a contribution as you can muster, and then go to step four.
Step Four: Count your jobs and create a new jobs goal
Regardless of party, creating jobs is one of your representative’s top priorities. Besides campaign contributions, little else gets a legislator’s attention as much as jobs. It doesn’t matter whether you have just handful of employees or hundreds. You are one of America’s proud small (or not-so-small) businesses with X number of solar jobs—and counting!
Make a note of that job number and set a new jobs goal. If there’s something locally or on the state or national levels that’s stopping you from meeting that goal, add it to your list of talking points.
Step Five: Set a time to meet everyone on your list of representatives
You now have two lists: Your contact list and your talking point list for pro-solar legislation and for creating more jobs.
Use the contact list to call all of your representatives and ask for a time to speak to each of them when they’re back home in their district. This is their job, so while they may not reply promptly, they won’t likely turn you down if you ask politely. Don’t wave a contribution in front of their noses or demand anything. Just ask for a meeting time, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.
The staffers will ask for a topic of conversation. Tell them you’d like to discuss how the representative might be able to help you create more solar and other clean energy jobs in their district/city/state. That should get their attention.
Now for the guerrilla advocacy part. The point here isn’t really to propose new legislation or support introduced bills, although that’s appreciated. The real goal here is to put a face to your company and to make all of these local, state and national representatives realize that they have a lot of solar/wind/energy storage job creators in their district/city/state.
It may take time to meet your reps, and the staffers may introduce you to an assistant at first, but politely ask that you eventually meet with the actual representative. Say that you’d like a selfie with them to show your customers. If governors, senators and mayors still decline, they may have an environmental or energy-related staffer who may suffice.
When you get your meetings, discuss your job goals and challenges with them. Take notes. Before you leave—and this is important—take that selfie or three. This will be very valuable for the sixth and final step.
Step Six: Each month, write a personal email to each person that you met
Honestly, if you’ve made it this far, the hard work is over. Now that these legislators and leaders (or high-level staffers) have put a face to you and/or your renewable energy business, you can create a personal monthly update email to the person you met.
Create a calendar, and once a month, check in with each rep about any issues discussed. Try not to be too formal. Instead, write as if you’re writing to your aunt or grandmother about how your business is growing. Include a few of the following topics in your note, especially the job-related ones:
- Fill them in on your solar job numbers and new hires. Introduce new hires and tell them why your company hired them.
- Update them about the number of solar installations.
- Call their attention to any anti-solar legislation that you’re concerned about.
- Send them company photos of smiling solar workers.
- Thank them for supporting any pro-solar legislation. Tell them you’re disappointed when they don’t.
- Share one of your monthly emails in a customer newsletter and/or blog with a brief introduction about your initial conversation and job creation goals. Many people will enjoy reading this monthly pen-pal advocacy relationship with the governor or a representative.
In terms of time commitment, you can create these personal updates once and edit slightly for each of your discussions, lawmakers and local leaders. Just change the name and include one of those selfies every once in a while. It shouldn’t take you more than a few hours per month.
In addition to the monthly personal email, call the office every two months to check in with the elected official (or the staffer) and verbally repeat the highlights of your last update. Thank them for any support. If there’s an issue, ask them for help. If they’ve been helpful, invite them to tour your facilities and meet your employees.
If your kid has a birthday or your team won a championship, mention that too and include a photo. This is why you met these people. They’re real people now, not just politicians, and likewise, you’re a person to them too, not just an anonymous statistic. You may not have a lot of money for contributions, but you do have job-growing goals. Believe me, they’ll be happy to jump on the bandwagon and brag about your success, especially when they feel they’ve been a part of it. Jobs success stories are the best. That I will tell you.
How a widespread guerrilla renewable energy advocacy campaign could help
Imagine if the thousands of renewable energy businesses across the country committed to this get-to-know-your-leaders campaign. While Trump and his fossil-fueled team may be ignoring renewables for now, your representatives will be well aware of many small businesses in their districts and will be reluctant to hinder your job goals with any anti-solar legislation or regulations.
For more ways for solar communicators to advocate for solar under Trump with social media, read this post.
That’s the plan. Now it’s up to each of us to actually implement it.