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Part 3: Smart Grid Forecast 2012

Just a couple weeks ago Obama, with Clinton at his side, announced another $4 B in federal investment in smart grid technologies for the business sector in the next two years. That’s in addition to the $10B earmarked by the Recovery Act in 2009. This is a drop in the bucket of the almost $53 billion in smart grid investment expected just in the U.S., but shows that policy is pointing this direction on a federal level.

To capitalize on the energy public relations and industry leadership buzz, it’s important to understand where the bulk of this money will go. Much of it will be plowed into smart meter upgrades for utilities across the United States. That’s happening now, and as soon as the majority of home and business meters are “smart” instead of linear, a lot of things start to happen fast. For one thing, utilities and power generation companies will be overwhelmed with data. Good data management and analysis will become the fodder for a technology boom around energy that will help match energy supply with demand in almost real time.

Top Smart Grid and Energy PR Stories 2012 Feature Tech

Smart grid publicity in 2012 will focus on big picture around difficulties of the data being gathered for the first time at scale. Entrepreneurs and technology innovators will have stories around geomapping, metering, and monitoring in new ways.

Energy PR Do’s and Don’ts for 2012

If you’re one of the IT companies investing in the energy boom, you’ll need to keep these thoughts in mind as you tell your story to the business world:

1)     Explain WHY the technology you have around smart grid is important in clear, simple and human terms. For example, to say a “new technology saves 10 trillion megawatt hours by interpolating data from live sources” is not going to cut it and will be easy to misquote. You’ll have to translate your technology in simple examples busy people can comprehend to get the publicity impact you’re looking for. For example, your “technology cuts the power a small town needs to thrive by 40% by figuring out the patterns it the town’s energy usage.” And go on to explain that the money saved, ploughed back into the town, can repave all the roads twice, or hire 22 new teachers, or build an airport.

2)     Don’t use energy tech speak. Most of the problems around energy PR come from the fact that brilliant people work in energy—and  have for most of their careers. They have learned their own dialect. But if you’re an energy or cleantech company and you use the energy dialect with a typical business journalist, you might miss out on the big story you were looking for simply because the language hid it from them in the few fast minutes they had to interview you.

3)     Do turn ideas and numbers into concrete items. Many of the stories around smart grid investment over 2012 will focus on security, technology, data analysis, and the emerging smart grid network. All of these are conceptual—the average business reader will understand your technology much more instinctively if you take the numbers and concepts, and turn them into practical hypothetical examples with emotional impact, so they can feel as well as understand these stories.

4) Assume an ignorant audience. Most people, even educated business readers, are specialists. Almost all smart grid stories get off on the wrong foot if you assume a general understanding of smart grid infrastructure—always back off and explain the big picture, then go into the specifics of the development you are reporting.

Licking the surface of a raging river

We produce so much energy in the US—yet only use the smallest fraction of it. It’s almost like even with all the gas we burn in our cars, all the lights we leave on, all the AC and heat on all the time in all the malls, we are still only licking the surface of a raging river when it comes to the energy we actually LOSE.

Few stories in 2012 will have as much impact on our lives as those around the smart grid. The energy to power our future is hidden in the sentences and stories being told. It’s important for public relations professionals as well as energy journalists to put their best communications foot forward to give stakeholders a crystal picture of these developments as they happen.

What do you find most difficult about telling smart grid energy stories accurately? Let us hear from you @write2market.

Read part 2: [intlink id=”5556″ type=”post”]2012 Energy PR Tips[/intlink]
Read part 1: Ten [intlink id=”5555″ type=”post”]Energy PR Tips & Trends[/intlink] for 2012