Geothermal Rising: A Vision for the Geothermal Industry
Raising the recognition of geothermal energy means gaining public acceptance so it becomes directly associated with other renewable energies like wind and solar. When a leading politician stands up to give an address, we need to hear the word “geothermal” along with the ubiquitous mentions of solar and wind. Geothermal energy can no longer be overlooked by the country’s leadership. It needs to be a vibrant part of the future energy mix as we head towards 100% renewable and clean energy. To grow our geothermal industry, we need that upward pressure of public opinion on our leaders. Gaining greater public recognition needs to be a long-term effort with lasting cultural changes within our geothermal community.
We need to change how the public perceives us, as well. To do that we need to change how we portray ourselves outside of our community. This change has to be now. The recognition of climate change around the world and the policies needed to address it are on the cusp of being the norm everywhere. Those who do not believe in climate change and have argued against it are under increasing pressure from the masses that do. That debate is over! Borrowing words from a famous British naturalist, David Attenborough, “As we all know, the world is in trouble! Continents are on fire, glaciers are melting, coral reefs are dying, fish are disappearing from our oceans, and the list goes on and on. But we know what to do about it.”
It is the policies of clean and renewable energy that will help drive the popularity of the geothermal industry across its many different incarnations of power, direct use and ground source heat pumps. We need to change our messaging culture from being introverted and technology focused to being extroverted and people focused.
These are exciting times for our organization as we embrace change and evolve into a new non-profit, professional and trade association for geothermal energy. By doing so, we stay relevant and effective for our membership, sponsors and supporters in the geothermal industry and community in the USA and abroad, as well as broadening our reach into geothermal heating and cooling along with our traditional focus on electricity generation.
The new organization will continue the heritage of the past 50 years, connecting with local people and companies on the ground in our industry, bringing people together in research, industry and government, and collaborating with partner organizations, thought leaders and decision makers around the globe. Built on top of this, we will be developing the sharp and modern public relations that reaches out across society to help promote awareness of geothermal energy: from the general public and school children, through to decision makers at the highest levels.
It has long been recognized by the GRC Board of Directors and leadership that the geothermal industry and the GRC could be more effective on the public relations front. In 2018, the Board published a draft outreach report. The Board concluded that the highest priority strategic goal was to increase the importance of geothermal in meeting energy demands and that this required outreach to enable social acceptance.
The outreach report provides a framework for our marketing and communications. Also in 2018, I was hired as the new Executive Director. A focus of mine was to help GRC implement its vision and strategy. I have been supported every step of the way by staff, dedicated volunteers and a Board that welcomes those changes.
In February 2019, the Board approved the use of our Foundation funds for a marketing project. Although GRC has been accumulating foundation investments for almost 50 years, this was the first large-scale use of those funds for implementing necessary changes in the best interests of our membership and the entire industry. The ensuing marketing project focusses on a geothermal development campaign for the whole community. Through effective and stronger marketing, Geothermal Rising will more successfully champion geothermal energy to become mainstream. We hope to bring geothermal into the public conscience at a level with other energy and energy saving sources. Our society needs geothermal to transition more fully to clean and renewable energy.
In early 2020, GRC hired Taoti Creative, a talented marketing group based in Washington D.C., to lead GRC’s re-branding efforts, develop our new website, and plan a geothermal marketing campaign for our organization, as well as our industry. Taoti’s first task was to assess how the geothermal industry and GRC is accepted outside the geothermal community.
As part of this assessment, Taoti also took a hard look at our name. As part of the 2018 GRC-GEA consolidation, the GRC and GEA Boards of Directors agreed that a new name for our organization should be considered. A new name might better characterize who we are to our membership and to the public. After a survey of Directors, staff and members from our GRC community, Taoti concluded that while “Geothermal Resources Council” worked for this organization over the last 50 years, it may not best represent who we are and what we hope to become going forward. Questions and comments that we received during this process included the following: “What is a council? What resources are we referring to in our name? Those in the ground, our people…what? Another common comment was that many members associate “GRC” only with the Annual Meeting and were unaware that there is an organization driving all of this. “See you next year at GRC” is a common refrain among many of our members.
To make us better understood and to help gain a broader acceptance by our members and the public, we need to change both our name and our branding. Consider for a moment some strong names like Nike, Coca-Cola, or Tesla. Branding is not just about a logo and a name. It encapsulates the look and feel, the ethos, the essence and personality of an organization. As GRC is synonymous with the industry, then to be successful we also need to re-brand the industry to achieve our vision of raising the recognition and acceptance of geothermal energy across society. GRC is the oldest and largest professional and geothermal trade association. We want it to speak for the geothermal community in a modern movement that champions geothermal energy as the future of clean and renewable energy worldwide. I believe that was the aim of the founders of our organization 50 years ago. We intend to help revitalize GRC and our industry through this aggressive re-branding and marketing campaign and honor the intentions of our founders.
We are changing our organization’s name and our branding, and how we are perceived by the public outside our community. We want to stay relevant to our members and community by shifting into public relations on behalf of both GRC and our industry. It is time to rise above being understood by only scientists and engineers and to become mainstream. Our new name needs position, function and personality. We need to convey that we are the authority and the experts, that we are an association and an influencer, and that we are aspirational, positive, and powerful. A strong new name needs to be different, it needs to resonate, and it needs to be relatable for our members and public alike.
After brainstorming with select Board members and thought leaders and then discussing this with leading industry experts, Taoti presented a new name for Board review and approval. In their presentation, they indicated that this new name must be accompanied by relevant messaging. The name and the messaging should be aspirational and optimistic. It cannot be overly descriptive or technical and should appeal to the masses and not just to those in the industry. Our members told us they desire emphasis on community and to be more engaging.
Transforming our industry’s public image also needs to go together with market opportunities, policy changes, and technical innovation to expand our use over the next decades. In the eyes of the public, we need to rise to the challenge of geothermal anywhere and anytime by being a worldwide industry. We need to present new and scalable technologies for power generation like Engineered Geothermal Systems and closed borehole loops, and illustrate the benefits of expanded electricity power generation and direct use for communities and industry. We need to show that using the near subsurface for heating and cooling our homes and businesses everywhere can significantly reduce people’s electricity demands.
GRC concluded that our messaging must resonate with the public by being built around a goal of effectively utilizing the planet’s resources in order to save the planet. Our message must be positive, aspirational, showing action and potential; lifting geothermal from the depths like we raise heat from the depths. As a community we must inspire people to join us in using the Earth to save the Earth. We must become Geothermal Rising.
This new branding is a dramatic change to the perception of geothermal energy and its oldest organization, but Geothermal Rising is about embracing change. Our new association, speaking with one voice for the geothermal industry, is relevant today as we enter a renaissance period. Finally, Geothermal Rising retains our greatest commodity and brand recognition; in 2021, our annual meeting and industry exhibition will be in San Diego, October 3rd to 6th, and will be the new Geothermal Rising Conference. Looking forward to seeing you at the GRC!