The utility industry needs to change. Three emerging, global trends are influencing change in this industry: Decarbonization, Decentralization, and Digitization, aka, the three Ds. Utilities can combat climate change through clean energy solutions that decarbonize our planet towards carbon neutral goals. More than ever, consumers are going off the grid through new forms of decentralized technologies such as solar, storage, and electronic vehicles (EVs). Finally, all stakeholders in the utility value chain are going digital for an improved, seamless experience. As such, the utility status quo must rapidly change in order to better address the needs of the communities they serve.
Enter National Grid Partners (NGP). NGP is the corporate venture capital (VC) and innovation arm of National Grid (NG). There is no other corporate VC or energy company that exists that has the expertise or strategic focus that NGP has. However, despite launching in late 2018 in Silicon Valley, its brand visibility was still relatively unknown and NGP needed to drive growth within a historically slow-moving utility category.
Challenged with limited resources and a tight budget, the team focused on the following desired outcomes:
NGP at its core is disruptive within the energy category but needed to amplify its unique brand story through social media.
Startup disruptors aspire to become unicorns, aka, reach a $1B valuation (e.g., Airbnb, DoorDash). This is not an easy audience to win over, especially when competing for deals against the preeminent VC firms such as Salesforce Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Andreesen Horowitz, New Enterprise Associates, Sequoia Capital, and Intel Capital.
It was critical for NGP to understand this audience, so the NG corporate affairs team decided to create and focus on a persona entitled “Aspiring Energy Unicorns.” They included:
NGP seized the opportunity to differentiate from other VCs and energy companies in order to attract disruptors for investment. While other VCs may just cut a check, NGP delivered a whole suite of financial and strategic solutions to scale startup founders’ visions. In other words, “They don’t just need a boat. They want a rowing partner.” Applying this insight and persona would drive NGP’s social strategy and execution.
Differentiation is critical in a competitive VC space. The NG corporate affairs team authored a positioning statement that would unlock “The Potential of Energy” in the hearts and minds of its target: “National Grid Partners is the only VC and innovation firm that taps into the global network of National Grid, accelerating companies with investment, incubation, innovation, and business development; realizing the full potential of energy.”
The brand positioning would be applied to three strategy pillars to further increase differentiation:
The three-pillared strategy would shape a continuous narrative, encompassing Thought Leadership, Deal Announcements, People, News & Updates, Related VC Content, and Evergreen. This content would be planned through an editorial calendar throughout the year and would come to fruition through video, case studies, blogs, social tiles, hashtags, and redistribution of any relevant NGP mentions by the 22 startups and funds it has invested in thus far.
The social media efforts connected with two other key components of NGP’s marketing communication plans:
This all delivered a steady drumbeat of content that connects the NGP brand positioning and strategy pillars with “Aspiring Energy Unicorns” in order to achieve the desired outcomes.
NGP’s social campaign achieved its business goals with 100% organic social and ZERO paid media.
Following are NGP social-specific highlights:
Finally, NGP’s social campaign has had a statistically significant impact on the business goals, including:
(Revenue and brand growth)
(Attract deal flow)
(Elevate corporate sentiment and ranking)
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