Making wind contagious: Best-selling business author to share communications insights

Making wind contagious: Best-selling business author to share communications insights

Most industry members and advocates know that wind power is a top-choice energy source. It’s affordable, it’s reliable, and it’s clean. But how does one impress that extraordinary combination of attributes upon the world? One speaker at the WINDPOWER 2015 Conference & Exhibition will shed some light on this question.

Jonah Berger, Wharton School of Business faculty member and best-selling author, has spent the last decade looking into and explaining why certain products get more word of mouth than others, and why certain online content goes viral. In his book Contagious, he makes a science of the illusive concept of word of mouth and social transmission.

Berger has said that he became interested in the topic when he read Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and contacted him to find out what other research was available. Gladwell’s answer: There’s still not all that much out there. So Berger went to work.

“This book is really a researched-based look at … the science of social transmission or the psychology of talk,” Berger says in a video on the book. “[It’s about] understanding what leads people to talk about and share one thing rather than another, how companies, organizations and individuals can leverage this science to help their own products, ideas, and behaviors succeed.”

Berger outlines six basic principles that cause everything from products to workplace rumors to policy initiatives  to become contagious. Those principles: Social currency, Triggers, Emotions, Public, Practical value, and Stories (STEPPS).

“Just like if one person has a cold and you touch that person or talk to that person you might catch a cold, contagious content is things, ideas, behaviors and products that are more likely to spread from one person to another,” he explains. “You can think of [STEPPS] almost as a recipe, a set of principles that make things succeed.”

In the wind energy context, the implications of Berger’s work are significant. The electric industry is not a sexy one in the first place. When the lights flip on, the average person does not think about the chain of technology, from generation to transmission and distribution, happening behind the switch.

Yet the industry knows it can provide America with 20 percent of its electricity by 2030 and 35 percent by 2050, and generate this electricity with zero pollution. Achieving such benchmarks, of course, involves a conscious public policy choice.

With the added benefit of providing fresh perspective from outside the industry, Berger will share insights that can inform the discussion on effectively communicating wind’s outstanding benefits.


Carl has been a part of the AWEA team since 2006. He brings both his expertise in communications as well as experience with the evolving wind energy industry to the job of overseeing AWEA's online and written publications including the Wind Energy Weekly, WINDPOWER Update, WINDPOWER Today, and various print materials. He has worked as a journalist in the energy industry as a staff writer for Public Utilities Fortnightly magazine and in the association sector as senior editor at Association Management magazine. He also has covered the home-building industry, where his areas of greatest interest were sustainable development and "smart growth," and has written articles for numerous other publications as a freelance writer. Carl received his B.A. from James Madison University and spent some time in New Orleans employed as a teacher as well as working with homeless youth.

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