We got our client on BBC One!

The MD of one of our biggest clients, Tony Sampson of Cornwall Solar Panels, recently appeared on BBC One – & it was partly down to the newsletter we write for them

We don’t generally advertise PR as one of our main services – but on this evidence, perhaps we ought to. A few weeks ago, at the end of September, Tony Sampson of Cornwall Solar Panels made a brief appearance on the BBC’s Sunday Politics show for the South West region, after an open letter we co-wrote with him grabbed the attention of the producers. Granted, it wasn’t a particularly long appearance, but it was a high profile one – and to be regarded as any sort of go-to voice for the South West solar industry is quite an achievement in itself.

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Dark times for solar?

Back at the end of August, we were typing up our monthly newsletter for Cornwall Solar Panels – part of their retainer bundle – when we heard news of a decision that would have big repercussions for the development of the UK solar industry. The government had just announced that from January 2016, they would be cutting the Feed-in Tariff for solar owners by about 90%. The Feed-in Tariff is essentially a subsidy, enabling people to get paid a small amount of money for every unit of electricity their solar panels generate. It was designed with the aim of gradually increasing demand for and lowering the price of solar panels – a job which had been achieved emphatically so far. FIT payments were also working on a sliding scale, being gradually reduced each year as entry-level prices of solar fell in tandem. However, the scheme being phased out around five years early came as a huge shock to the renewables industry, who had expected the Conservative government to come out in support of private investment in solar energy. Tony felt particularly strongly about this – how could a scheme that was working so well be culled off, and with such little warning?

Aim for the top

It was clear this news couldn’t be ignored, so we immediately changed tack, deciding something had to be done in protest. Discussing our options with Tony, we quickly settled on writing an open letter – a medium that’s not just fashionable at the current moment, it’s also proven to be quite a successful way of garnering media attention. The next question was who to write it to, but since the man at the top – our Prime Minister, David Cameron – is so famously a fan of our county, we felt he was the obvious choice. And, despite him being the most powerful man in the country, Tony seriously doubts he has a good understanding of the capabilities of solar – as he makes very clear in his interview.

The benefit of a great client relationship

We chatted over a brief plan of what Tony wanted to say, but it was having such a close client relationship with him and Cornwall Solar Panels that proved a godsend when writing the open letter. Over the previous months, we’d become so familiar with his quietly passionate, deeply logical style of argument – let alone what those many arguments for solar actually were – meaning we could easily draft them up into written format within the next day or two. So when it came to checking it all back through with him, it was more a case of him whittling down our word-count than the other way around! Needless to say, that’s the benefit of knowing your client so well – when you get a good feel for what they want to say, you can act quickly and make sure their communication is well-timed, topical, and always on-brand.

dr dave on bbc

Tony’s open letter – penned with the help of our copywriters – appears in the segment

Spotted by the BBC

Having sent off the open letter as the lead story in the CSP email newsletter, we sat back and watched the feedback roll in from Campaign Monitor. It’s our chosen email marketing software, perfect for managing large send-outs like this one, as it enables us to very quickly build and replicate smart, branded newsletters, with minimum design and development input. We knew we were doing pretty well, as the figures showed a live open and click-through rates – eventually settling at 37% and 12% respectively. Not bad when you consider that industry standards are reported to be around 25% and 3%. What we didn’t know was that somewhere in CSP’s email database was a BBC producer they’d once done an installation for. What with the current, political nature of the article, it immediately caught her attention, and Tony was asked to give his thoughts on the matter on BBC Radio Cornwall. In a matter of days, he was then called up to ask if he’d appear on the TV show – famously hosted by Andrew Neill. He was interviewed at the Truro Julian Foye store, and the news segment even featured a close up of the letter itself on screen. From our perspective, this was the cherry on top, but the whole thing was a real coup for us, let alone for Cornwall Solar Panels. Or, as Tony put it, “amazing for our credibility and our brand awareness. Shows the power of what you guys are doing for us!”


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