Podcast 044: Mike Casey – What is strategic brevity and how can it amplify the local energy story?

Mike Casey Tigercomm and Bill Nussey podcast

If you are even remotely interested in helping accelerate the shift to clean local renewable energy, this podcast is for you.  Why? Getting the right message out there today is tricky…but our guest today has been helping cleantech companies and renewable energy groups for some 30 years and he has some powerful ideas on how to be more effective.  Mike Casey, founder and President of Virginia-based Tigercomm joins Freeing Energy Host Bill Nussey to discuss how to effectively put 21st Century Communication strategies to work in shaping our clean energy future.

Make sure to check out the best of Mike’s quotes and take-aways below…

Mike Casey: What is strategic brevity and how can it amplify the local energy story?

If you are even remotely interested in helping accelerate the shift to clean local renewable energy, this podcast is for you.  Why?

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Great quotes from Mike Casey

“Strategic brevity”

How do I sum up my product, my idea, my executive to an audience in the most succinct and connecting way possible? Traditional disciplines, such as advertising, PR and marketing, they were more alchemy based. It was let’s all run to the fun zone of how do we say what we want to say? Because that’s fun, it’s creative.

“Principled loserism”

There still is a fair amount of this kind of permanent pandemic of principal loserism. I don’t mind losing, I just want to be right about it. I think that’s dumb. I mean, if we’ve got the future of my kids’ livable space on the line, I don’t give a damn how we win. We just got to win because there’s no planet B.

“Shrinking island strategy” employed by incumbent fossil fuel and electric monopolies

It is where companies like Exxon Mobil and Chevron are on right now. And the pattern is very clear, smarter people than me have documented it. I’m simply articulating it, perhaps a little more succinctly.

But they start by saying, “We’re good for you.” Then they’ll retreat to, “Well, we’re not maybe good for you, but we’re benign. There’s no harm here.” Then they’ll say, “Okay, there’s some harm here, but it’s not clear we’re causing it. Let’s study it.” And then they’ll say, “Okay, well, there is a downside to what we’re doing, but there’s all these upsides and of course remediating our downsides needs to be thought through and studied, and it should be at the absolute lowest cost. And of course the least effective way to do it.” And then they’ll say, “Okay, all right, you win. We’ve been causing a problem and now we’re going to be part of the solution.”

“The attention span of a goldfish”

the lore quite hotly debated but the average American has an attention span of 7 seconds, less than the attention span of a goldfish

Zen saying that reflects on marketing

There’s an old Zen koan, a saying that Zen masters would use to aspiring monks to get them to think more deeply. You can stand in the circle of what is, or you can stand in the circle of what should be and shout at the circle of what is.

Confucious on collective action

I am in strong disagreement with the people who dismiss the impact of collective results of individualized actions. One of my favorite sayings is from Confucius, it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.

Additional information

  • The book Mike refers to: The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Content Marketing, Podcasting, Social Media, AI, Live Video, and Newsjacking to Reach Buyers Directly by David Meerman Scott (available at Amazon)
  • Learn more about Community Choice Aggregators (CCA) at NREL https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy19osti/72195.pdf

Transcript

Bill:
Well, hello, Freeing Energy world. We have another very exciting podcast today. We’re going to be interviewing Mike Casey of Tigercomm. Now, you might know Tiger Comm is one of the premier clean tech marketing communication firms in the United States, and Mike’s been getting the word out about important topics for 30 years. And the last many years he’s been focused on what he calls a clean economy, and we’re going to be diving into that today. But mostly we’re going to be picking his brain on advice of how to get stories told, how to get stories out there, because he’s certainly one of the most successful people doing that in the clean energy industry. You don’t have to look far to find Mike, he writes a lot of articles from the National Geographic to Renewable Energy World, Forbes.

I’ve come across his name over and over again, which is why I was excited to have a chance to meet him. But we’re going to start off, as we love to do on the Freeing Energy Project, with a little bit of Mike’s sort of non professional world. He is a two time world gold medal winner in the martial arts of Brazilian jujitsu. So, this is an audio recording, but I’m sitting here at a computer screen looking at Mike over video, and I can tell that this is a guy who goes to the gym more than I do, we’ll just say that. Which is the low bar by the way. But anyway, Mike, really excited to have you here today. So, welcome to the Freeing Energy podcast.

Mike:
Thank you.

Bill:
So, let’s just start with this thing you do when you’re not communicating the benefits of renewable energy and clean energy and clean economy to the world. You compete in Brazilian jujitsu. What is that?

Mike:
Brazilian jiujitsu is the fastest growing martial art in America. But for the viewers and listeners who aren’t familiar with it, it is what happens on the ground in the UFC. So, classic Brazilian jujitsu is two competitors wearing heavy cotton judo uniforms, we’re going to try to take each other down. Once we hit the ground, the party starts, and I’m going to try to choke or joint lock you into submission and you’re going to try to do the same to me. And sometimes it ends with somebody getting choked out. Most of the time it’s I’m tapping out. And so during the pandemic we’ve had a four guy training pod from our school, which has been training down in my basement jujitsu gym. In fact, I got my… Took off my head here, I’ll show you the…

Bill:
I noticed you’ve got some medical tape on your wrist. Oh, there BJJ, OGS rule, nice.

Mike:
Old guys rule.

Bill:
Old guys rule? I thought you were like 22, man.

Mike:
I love you already. I love you already.

Bill:
I know. I feel like I could do PR if I could say stuff like that without cracking a smile.

Mike:
I can’t say it, I crack smiles all the time. So, what does that say about me?

Bill:
I hadn’t even thought about the fact that COVID is going to affect that, like it has so many other sports. And so I think of marketing communications is kind of a soft touch business, a nuanced business, but yet you are a master of physical combat. So, how do those two things interplay with you?

Mike:
Thanks. Well, just to clarify, thank you for the overstatement, the flattering overstatement, but I’m just a student. I’m just an old guy student, I’m not a master by any stretch, because that actually means something in my neighborhood. So, there’s five levels, white, blue purple, brown, black. I’m a brown belt, it takes a long time to get to black belt. But within the world of Brazilian jujitsu, there’s a saying, there are black belts and black belts that make other black belts look like white belts. And that latter category, they’re the masters. I’m not even close.

Bill:
It’s a great perspective. And what an interesting and unique way to invest. It obviously keeps you in great shape and healthy living, that’s a win-win. Well, let’s get back down to the somewhat less combative, but although really combative to people who don’t live in the renewable energy world. And today we’re going to talk a little bit about storytelling, marketing, and maybe get to pick your brain a bit, because a lot of our listeners are entrepreneurs and innovators. People that want to get into this space and want to understand how to get their story there, above all this crazy noise that’s in the industry. Because as you may or may not have noticed, there seems to be some conflicting communications around things like climate change and clean energy. Just a bit. So, how did you end up getting involved in clean energy? Take us a bit through your early career and how you transitioned from, I think, politics into the world of a clean economy.

Mike:
Yeah. So, I think, for better or for worse, there is a river that runs through it. And my journey that landed me in the founder’s chair of this firm started in 1982, September 1982, when I read the first college textbook at Ohio State, which was Lester Browns’ The 29th Day. He at the time was the foremost environmental trends counter on the planet, and his book essentially said we are living unsustainably. We’re treating our living space like a toilet. We’re eating our seed grain, not what is grown with the seed grain, so to speak. There’s too many of us and we’re going to hit the wall.

And at that time I said I want to devote my life to doing something about that. And as I went through college, I went on what I’ll call a three-part journey. The first I went into politics to learn the intersection of media, politics and policy, and once I learned, I felt like I’d spent roughly 10 years at that intersection. I then went into the environmental and conservation community, where I spent 10 to 12 years. And along that way I had three slow realizations. One is that we are trying to beat something with nothing. We were saying no to coal. We didn’t have something we were saying yes to.

The second slow realization was that we didn’t have the infrastructure in place to help tell clean economy narratives. And the third was that we were bringing, as David Roberts at Vox says, we were bringing plastic forks to knife fights. We had a skills and attitude gap. It’s what I call the disease of principled loserism. A lot of people on the then green side, now the clean side, it’s not so true anymore. But there still is a fair amount of this kind of permanent pandemic of principal loserism. I don’t mind losing, I just want to be right about it. I think that’s dumb. I mean, if we’ve got the future of my kids’ livable space on the line, I don’t give a damn how we win. We just got to win because there’s no planet B.

So, I’ve taken a more proactive, I think, aggressive view of the need for us to speed tactical development. And essentially the three parts of the career have all been roughly 10 years, this one’s been 15. I started at Tiger Comm 15 years ago, and I started to essentially address these three shortcomings, narrative, infrastructure and best practices attitude gap. We have sought to close that through our own approach to client work and in our external facing analysis and content development.

Bill:
Well said. One of the points you made, Mike, really resonate. I’m reading Leah Stokes book, Short-circuiting Policy. It’s a really interesting book and it talks about how interest groups on both sides of the question of clean energy and climate have amassed influence politically, et cetera. It’s a bit outside the realm of what we usually talk about Freeing Energy, but I found it fascinating and echoed exactly what you were saying. Was that in the early days, and still today, the people who are communicating the stories and setting the narrative flow in the energy industry, the folks who have a lot to lose and have a lot of revenue to protect, are often more well-organized and almost certainly always better funded. And so I think it’s a great inspiration to know that you got started in this to help construct a more foundational architecture for communications in the space that’s, I think, history is almost certainly going to see in the side of right. I’m positive we’ll see on the side of right, so it’s good to really help push that along.

Mike:
Bill, I’ll add I’m reading a book called The Polluters, and it’s a history of the chemical lobby.

Bill:
Oh, interesting.

Mike:
And it is absolutely fascinating. The major takeaway, I think, for your listeners and viewers is that it takes, normally, several decades for a sector, an economic sector, to mature in its relationship to external communications and relating to government. I’ll be uncharitable in The Polluters case, and I’ll say to influence pedaling and propaganda. And the challenge we’ve got in clean economy is that most of the time, our companies are not new industries. They’re new sectors within industries that are dominated by powerful incumbents that have had 50, 60, 70 years, and as many generations of executive team leadership, to mature in their view, mature in their relationship to public communications. And they are skilled at weaponizing disinformation and influence pedaling as a tool to hold onto market share.

And what this book, The Polluters shows, is that as early as the 19 teens, the chemical industry was doing essentially what they’re still doing now. They’re doing a digital, higher budgeted version of what they’re doing now. There’s a sequence, there’s kind of a rhythm, what I call the shrinking island strategy, that companies like Exxon Mobil and Chevron are on right now. And the pattern is very clear, smarter people than me have documented it. I’m simply articulating it, perhaps a little more succinctly.

But they start by saying, “We’re good for you.” Then they’ll retreat to, “Well, we’re not maybe good for you, but we’re benign. There’s no harm here.” Then they’ll say, “Okay, there’s some harm here, but it’s not clear we’re causing it. Let’s study it.” And then they’ll say, “Okay, well, there is a downside to what we’re doing, but there’s all these upsides and of course remediating our downsides needs to be thought through and studied, and it should be at the absolute lowest cost. And of course the least effective way to do it.” And then they’ll say, “Okay, all right, you win. We’ve been causing a problem and now we’re going to be part of the solution.”

And this is the sort of several step fall back strategy where you just keep moving up to higher altitudes on the shrinking islands, so you can hold onto market share. Basically if you think like water polo, it’s essentially the incumbent sectors hold down the head of the insurgent sectors within an industry. This is happening in real time with solar, onshore wind, offshore wind, and pace financing, a hundred percent. Seen it over and over and over again. And there’s nothing inherently evil about that. I mean, one can bring a worldview that says, “Gosh, that’s really bad.” And I have that worldview, but from an operational and tactical standpoint, wallowing in the morality of that is just kind of a sucker’s game. I have my view, you have your view, we’ll just have to agree to disagree. No.

But if we view it that dishes a little bit of a Darwinian tinged world, in which dynamic capitalism takes place, then as disruptors, as the new comers in these industries, we just have to go, “Oh, okay, we’re going to disrupt powerful players. It comes with a territory. We’re going to build into our business plans from the start a disproportionate investment in proactive, smart, strategically designed, case making that fits our maximum budgets, but work to maximum effectiveness.”

Bill:
Mike, that is probably the single best pitch for marketing communications I’ve ever heard, in terms of putting it all the way in the framework of an existential threat to the planet earth. I buy it a hundred percent. I didn’t think we talk about this today, but this is a really fascinating perspective. And I really liked the way you’ve pulled this together into a cohesive worldview and bring in the history, I love that perspective. So, thank you for sharing that, really appreciate it. Glad you brought it up.

Mike:
Sure.

Bill:
So, let’s talk about creating this case making, and a little bit of a historical lens, the world, perhaps The Polluters in the book, have been using a set of tools for decades, well-known tools. In the last 5 or 10 years, the tools have proliferated, old tools have been taken down, radio, billboards, newspapers. New tools have emerged, social media, et cetera. But when you’re talking to folks who might have had a history in marketing communications in the traditional, pre internet… It’s not even really about the channels, but just in terms of the case making, what do you tell them that’s new now? What do you have to reteach your clients, that they may say, “Well, Mike, I’ve done it this way. It’s worked before.” And you’re going to say, “Listen, in clean energy, or maybe in the digital world, there’s new things you have to do.” What do you tell them?

Mike:
That’s an excellent question. I’ll try to not ramble on this answer, but it’s something we are particularly passionate about and spend a lot of time on. You are putting your finger on what we call the clean economy paradox. Brilliant people, bold people with great ideas, gutsy execution, forging ahead to take on powerful sector incumbents or powerful industry incumbents. But despite having cutting edge technology and trailblazing approaches, they have legacy external communications practices. This very common. It’s some combination of magical thinking and principle loserism, and just not… Because most of your executive teams, most of your startup execs, they don’t come from politics. They don’t come from public advocacy. They don’t come from marketing communications. Your average CEO, very few of them, come from a marketing background. They come from finance and operations and engineering. And this is fine.

Mike:
Now, to answer your question, tactics come and go. Principals are much more durable. So, best practices principles are ones where we can find common ground more easily with people who are in a legacy mindset, in terms of their tactics. And once we establish common ground on principles, then the tactical discussion gets much easier because then we’ve established common ground. You’ve used a few phrases that we often hear. So, there’s idea of I want to get my story out there. Well, this begs the question, what is the there and who is there? Some numbers. There is, let’s see, in 1990, there were two times the number of daily newspaper reporters in America that there are now. In fact, I bet that statistic is dated and I bet that the proportion is even more stark. In 1990, there were 265 million Americans, now there’s 325 million Americans. So, we have almost a hundred more million human beings in the United States and we’ve got half the daily newspaper reporters.

We have 200 counties in America equating to 1300 communities that are news deserts. They have no local news media covering it. And what has filled the void is Facebook, it’s the new town square. Our vehicles have changed up a good bit. Now, attitudinally, the relationship that Americans have to information flows has also shifted. I’ll give you three numbers. 7, 15000 and 5.7. Let’s explain those numbers. First is 7. That’s the average attention span, that’s a maximum average attention span for Americans.

Bill:
Is that 7 seconds or 7 minutes?

Mike:
Seconds.

Bill:
Wow.

Mike:
Now, the lore quite hotly debated, is that as less than the attention span of a goldfish, which [inaudible 00:17:23] and comes up to the side of the aquarium tank. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I do know that 7 seconds is pretty darn short. When I was in graduate school in 1986, we were looking at what’s the average television soundbite in the local news, and it was like just south of 20 seconds if memory serves. A tweet is 2.5 seconds. Michael Polen put his book, I think it was the Omnivore’s Delight.

Bill:
Omnivore’s Dilemma, one of my favorite books.

Mike:
Thank you. Yeah. Eat food, mostly plants, not too much.

Bill:
That’s a great point.

Mike:
That’s his book. Barack Obama got his presidential candidacy in 2008 down to eight stripes in a word. What was that word, do you remember?

Bill:
Hope.

Mike:
Correct. You remember it and I remember it. Okay. 5.7 is the number of hours a day that we spend on these devices, screens. Higher now that we have the pandemic. And then 15000 is the number of marketing messages, some people estimate that the average American’s bombarded by. What this adds up to is an even greater need to be for a strategic brevity. How do I sum up my product, my idea, my executive to an audience in the most succinct and connecting way possible? Traditional disciplines, such as advertising, PR and marketing, they were more alchemy based. It was let’s all run to the fun zone of how do we say what we want to say? Because that’s fun, it’s creative. It’s Don Draper, he writes things on a chalkboard and the skeptical executive unfolds his arms and asks for another cigarette and says, “Oh, that’s really interesting.”

But the disciplined eat your peas approach, which as disruptors we must have, starts with what is our business outcome that our communications effort is going to support? Specifically to find. And you’ll note that I said outcome. That doesn’t mean that we can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, but it means we have to either walk and chew gum or chew gum or walk. In other words, we’re dancing with a lead foot. We must identify what in our business plan, over whatever arbitrarily chosen time horizon you’ve got, that we are most out to support. Then we say, “Who is going to give that to us, specifically?” And if you’re at female consumers, you’re stopping far short.

But if we get a particular demographic and psychographic in a certain regional area down as our audience, because they’re going to give us that commercial outcome. Or another client we’ve got right now, they’re moving from Angel to their Series A funding, they have 100 to 150 target funders. Of those they have 20% unidentified, 80% identified. They can get meetings with a third of them. So, really we’re talking about some identification, but some relationship development for two thirds of 150 people. It’s 100 people. Now, that is a well-defined audience. And we know that they’re in New York and Chicago and LA, and large financial centers. We can put them on a spreadsheet. And the important thing with that is a lot of clean economy companies are not B2C companies that are marketing to millions like Amazon is. They’re B2B companies marketing to dozens, hundreds, or a few thousands.

This is a fundamental difference. We’ve written about this. Our signature analysis is called No Time For Legacy. And in it we distinguish the differences in quite great detail, in the reality of marketing to hundreds or thousands versus marketing to tens of millions. The latter requires algorithms, the former requires the same things that the B2C folks use, smart content, insightful, engaging, connecting at the emotional level. However, we are focusing our marcomm effort to the top of the sales funnel on a few hundred people, and we’re optimizing our website for inbound. So, we can see when you as a customer prospect gets on my website, I can see what you’re doing and where you’re going. And then in integrated more common sales operations, when you hit certain tripwires, behavioral tripwires, we then hand you off to the salespeople and say, “Hey, Bill’s displaying certain behavior that signals that he may be early stages in a purchase decision. Perhaps you want to reach out to him.”

Because the marcomm literature from academia is increasingly clear. More and more of the purchase decision, whether it’s B2C or B2B, is being made online through search and content. Take off the table impulse purchasing. I’ll go get my can of carbonated water. I’m not thinking much about that. But if I’m going to buy one of these, or if I’m going to even look for a mask, what are you going to do? You’re going to Google, do some online search of content, before you want to take or make seller contact. This is super important. So, the legacy approach is intention with emerging purchase decision dynamics. The new way we reach people is to respect the trajectory they’re on and work with it rather than against it, knowing that at any given time, 97% of our prospects are not ready to buy, but [inaudible 00:22:53] stay relevant in their world. So, when they move from 97% to 3%, I’m beginning my purchase decision, my content, my website is part of your search pattern that leads you to me.

Bill:
Well, Mike, I spent 20 years in the marketing industry and I ran a company called Silverpop, which we sold to IBM and it became IBM’s marketing cloud. And I got to tell you, man, you are spot on with that. I spent my life working with 5000 of the world’s largest brands doing exactly what you said. And in fact, if you go to Amazon, you look for a book called Behavioral Marketing, you’ll see I helped write it. We brought the first technical system to do precisely what you’re saying. And our pitch was actually, I’ve rarely heard it, and for all my years at Silverpop, as succinctly as you put it, which is the merger of B2B and B2C marketing. It’s the emotive side of B2C tied into the targeted audience, specific B2B, triggered by specific behavioral responses.

I hate to speak like that because it sounds very manipulative, but we built as a company was something that was incredibly open-ended. All the communications were sent out open-ended, but very open and transparent, and all the communications were by invitation only. In other words, you would only interact with our clients system when you want it to, and they wouldn’t track you across different sites. And so it was that kind of marketing, despite it sounding a little bit intense, actually is very comfortable. It’s exactly what you’d get if you went into the Home Depot to buy a screw or to go on a car lot to buy a car. The person’s talking to you about the things you want to talk about in the context that you have. You have a lot of budget, a small budget, and that’s what you’re describing and automating it.

And that’s not the answer I expected you to give, and I love your answer. It’s actually the first time for me that I’ve seen such a strong convergence between what I did for a decade of my career and what I’m doing now, because part of what Freeing Energy is really getting a message out there. I also just want to echo one point you made that I think is going to be the quote from this podcast, which is strategic brevity. I think you’re hearkening back to Obama’s hope, or shall we say even a where’s the beef, if you’re old enough to remember that.

Mike:
I am. Well, only I’m 26 years old, so I’ll take your word for it.

Bill:
Yes. This short lady that was selling some kind of hamburger. Anyway.

Bill:
So, Mike, that the Freeing Energy listeners are passionate about local energy, which would include rooftop solar, community solar, commercial and industrial scale solar, and any small scale solar plus battery system. A lot of this momentum behind clean energy is driven by concerns over climate change, and in this regard, local energy and the grid scale stuff we hear mostly about are the same. A lot of folks are motivated to help the environment. But beyond the powerful, common environmental themes, these small-scale systems are quite different from their giant cousins. The small-scale systems are owned by homeowners and small businesses, they allow for additional features like resilience. They’re also more likely to support local communities with local jobs and things like that. And this is what we look at at the Freeing Energy, this distinction. So, when you’re talking about getting these stories out and the strategic brevity and case making, how would you think about advocacy and marketing and story when it comes to this different set of not entirely environmentally motivated benefits?

Mike:
Yeah. Same principles, same tactic, easier job. As Seth Goden says, he’s the top us marketing guru, I think, by all accounts. In his book, This Is Marketing, he says, “Successful marketing is identifying the smallest possible viable audience and super engaging and super delighting them.” I’m paraphrasing. When you are focused on local energy, community energy, the principles are all the same and they’re easier to deploy. It’s a little bit more forgiving an environment.

You don’t have somebody who’s going to fire you if your marketing campaign doesn’t return enormous wins right away. There is more native knowledge of the local community, this was hugely helpful in designing emotionally connected messages. But still even though we’re local, people’s decision-making is being formed and shaped through their online experience first, and then they’re in the room, across the table, or on the door experience second. So, we have to get the digital conversation right, which means we need to go through this eat your piece approach. What’s our outcome, and by when do we want achieve it, who’s going to give it to us? And what about our product offering or idea is most communicative to get across to this target audience, to get them to engage in an awareness attitude of behavior change that moves our goal forward? It’s the same principles. It’s just a smaller, more manageable task.

Bill:
Great. I love the way you’ve contextualized the message, education really resonates with me. I love a first principles framework, which is what you’re offering. And you’re talking about what you need to get out there and ways to do it. Obviously, there’s a way more detailed on ideas than we can get into today. But when those ideas are getting out there, when you’re laying the digital footprints for people to find first, when you’re knocking on the doors and physically having Zoom or face to face conversations, and all the myriad of ways you’re going to interact, let’s talk about the resistance to this, and particularly around the clean economy. In other words, we’ve talked a bit about the incumbents who have a lot to lose and are perhaps more experienced and better budgeted getting their stories at the top of the conversation. But tell me a little bit about how you advise clean energy or clean economy companies who they’re up against, and how they need to use that knowledge strategically when they’re designing their case making?

Mike:
Market disruption is a full context board. I’m not saying that, given my hobby.

Bill:
I went there, but that’s okay.

Mike:
I’m not trying to infuse this with a Y chromosome. It doesn’t really much matter. But the point is, if you’re a micro mobility company that’s trying to get the mayor and the city council of Kalamazoo to increase the cap on scooters, the only people you’re putting out of work are the taxi cab drivers, I guess. That’s not very powerful, entrenched interest. If you’re in London, the taxi cab lobby, so to speak, exists. Everywhere else, you’re good. But if you’re trying to do community solar, unless you’re in a decoupled state, you better damn well believe your utility is not going to like you taking 3000 roofs away from them. That’s why these investor-owned utilities in most of these states fought the solar wars in 2015 to 2018, and they’re still doing it, because basically their proposition is I’m supposed to pay you for using less of your product. That’s a really good deal. In New Jersey they call that the mafia. Pay me so I don’t bother you.

Mike:
I want to be clear, I’m not saying that IOU executives are criminals. But the point is, it’s kind of a silly perspective. We should get paid for customers using less of our product. “Hey, well, why don’t you sell people what they want and market it well, and then you’ll do better, right?” So, stand on your own two feet is the refrain that they’ve hucked at us ever since Solyndra. But anyway, okay. So, just to get brass tax with your audience. If you were a community solar company, or you’re a community solar advocate, it’s a free country, you can do whatever you want. But if you want to succeed, you have to be disciplined about your approach. You have to be economical in what you say and how you say it. You have to communicate to people, not where you think they should be, but where they actually are.

There’s an old Zen koan, a saying that Zen masters would use to aspiring monks to get them to think more deeply. You can stand in the circle of what is, or you can stand in the circle of what should be and shout at the circle of what is. And way too much [inaudible 00:32:07] communications, in the early stages was the latter. I would strongly recommend your listeners and viewers read David Meerman Scott’s, The New Rules Of Marketing PR. He is very user-friendly about things you can do if you own a local bicycle shop. So, all of these are very applicable if you’re into local distributed ener-generation, be it advocacy or sales. It’s not clean economy geared, but he updates it every so often.

First off, he’s a very impressive guy. You can dip into his conscience stream and there is a lot of it. And when I’m out taking my walks around the block, I’d spent a fair amount of time listening to Seth Goden’s podcast. He’s extremely prolific. He’s written, I counted 23, 24 books. But there are rivers that run through it. You’re looking for principles that you can apply. Don’t be afraid of DYIng. Most local energy advocates have to do it themselves. They don’t have the money to pay someone like me or you to come along and help them.

Bill:
That’s great insight, man. Wow. And one of the things I saw from your website, you’ve spent a lot of time and a lot of writing and clearly have a lot of experience around NMBYism. So, tell us what NMBYism is and where it’s existing and how you’re helping your clients wrestle with it.

Mike:
NMBYism stands for Not My Backyard. I’ve been an NMBY and I’ve worked against NMBYs. The thing you’ve got to understand about NMBYism is it’s very hard to create a NMBY reaction solely through external stimuli. There’s usually validity and truth behind the concerns and viewpoints that kick off a NMBY effort.

Bill:
That makes sense.

Mike:
But very often there’s outside money, on the down-low, exacerbating funding and making stronger NMBY reactions and campaigns. We see this in spades and onshore wind.

Bill:
Hadn’t heard that, makes sense. Wow. Great insight.

Mike:
A hundred percent.

Bill:
Interesting. Okay. Honestly, I feel like I could spend hours learning from you and getting your perspectives. I think you bring a very unique, broad, framework based thinking to these topics and one that I don’t often get to hear. So, tip my hat to you on that, for sure.

Mike:
Thank you. Thanks, Bill.

Bill:
But we at Freeing Energy like to ask to the same set of questions to all of our esteemed guests and some [crosstalk 00:34:37].

Mike:
So what are you then going to ask me if…

Bill:
Yes, right, as I said… Yes, we have another set of questions for our not esteemed guests.

Mike:
Only my dog esteems me, holds me in esteem. Everybody else, I’m not esteemed.

Bill:
I can tell by that statement that you have children as well.

Mike:
No, I have teenagers, sir.

Bill:
That’s much scarier than much [inaudible 00:34:56]. I actually have 20-somethings, which is an entirely different breed. Any way for both our esteemed and our non esteemed guest,. We have the same set of questions. These are called lightning round questions, so we try to get really quick answers and we do write ups and add them into articles and things like that. So, what excites you most about being in the clean energy industry?

Mike:
Brilliant people, shoulder to the wheel, working on the greatest threat to humanity we have ever faced as a species.

Bill:
I like that. That’s awesome. All right. If you could wave a magic wand and see one thing changed on the transition to clean renewable energy, what would it be?

Mike:
If we’re doing wand waving, then I think the thing I would want is universal understanding that there is no away and throw away. We cannot treat our house like a toilet and expect to enjoy living there. If we had universal understanding of that, we would have a fundamentally different business environment.

Bill:
What do you think will be the single most important change in how we generate, store and distribute electricity in the next five years?

Mike:
We’re going to use less, we’re going to waste less and we’re going to pay less.

Bill:
Drop the mic. Last question, what would you say to someone who asks, what can I do personally to help change the world towards clean energy more quickly?

Mike:
I’ve got a two-part answer. One of them is I am in strong disagreement with the people who dismiss the impact of collective results of individualized actions. One of my favorite sayings is from Confucius, it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. Second is I would look to the idea of tiny habits and be on the journey of a series of tiny habit changes that demonstrate your personal commitment to sustainability, to your immediate human environment. If enough of us unplugged televisions in our hotel rooms, at some point, a critical mass of hotel managers are going to go, Why do these TVs keep getting unplugged?” Well, because we don’t want ghost power drains happening. If enough of us call up Panera and ball out the manager for ignoring for our 150th time the request that you don’t put dumb plastic wear in my bag, the manager gets the message. But we have dwindling time and tremendous inertia, and the little things properly done are the big things.

Bill:
Man, I love it, Mike. I had not heard that Confucius quote, but the idea is incredibly powerful. And in fact, it’s in the final few paragraphs of this book I’ve been working on, which is the Genesis Of Freeing Energy, that I quote Robert Kennedy, who said, “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself. But each of us can work to change a small portion of events. It is from the [inaudible 00:37:58] diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped.” So, I think you and I are seeing eye to eye on that. And that’s really what we want to do with Freeing Energy is it’s freeing energy, taking it out of the hands of folks who have everything to gain by keeping the system the same, and into the hands of people that want to see and can achieve a far cleaner energy future, especially locally. Well, Mike, this has been absolutely fun. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve learned a ton. You bring some really great perspectives. So, thank you for your time today. I can’t wait to get this out and share it with all of our listeners.

Mike:
Thanks. Really been fun talking to you. Take care.

Same Easterby:
Thank you for joining us today. You have been listening to the Freeing Energy podcast, personal stories from the clean energy movement. Visit freeingenergy.com to learn more about clean local energy. I’m Sam Easterby. Bill Nussey is my co-host and the founder of the Freeing Energy Project. The Freeing Energy podcast is made in partnership with Frequency Media. Subscribe to the Freeing Energy podcast on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google podcasts, and anywhere podcasts are found. Make sure more people learn about clean local energy by rating and reviewing the show on Apple podcasts.

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