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How Solar Impulse turned an incident into an historical moment

By Diane Gaillard17 August 2018 No Comments

“Making the impossible happen takes more time than the possible,” explains Bertrand Piccard, Chairman and Pilot of Solar Impulse, on the company’s website. These words summarize Solar Impulse’s storytelling and the way the company transformed a negative story into a historical moment. Let’s analyze the 6 steps of their powerful storytelling (and no, I do not work for them :)). It all started on March 3rd when Solar Impulse 2 took off to begin its round-the-world tour.

The 22,000-mile trip started well… After Abu Dhabi, the plane made stopovers in Muscat, Ahmedabad, Varanasi, Madalay, Chongqing, Nanjing, Nagoya but the trip suddenly stopped in Hawaii due to battery damage, after a record-breaking flight between Japan and Hawaii. Bertrand Piccard commented:“it is a historic record for aviation and a historical first for renewable energy”. “Unfortunately, Solar Impulse will not be able to continue its journey before April 2016. Social media has a central role in the company communication. “#Si2will stay in Hawaii until early spring 2016” shared the pilot André Borschberg on Twitter on July 15th.

1. Providing a clear explanation of the issue:

This record has a cost. Bertrand Piccard explained,“the batteries overheated during the first day of the flight.” Transparency is key to Solar Impulse communication with the company sharing images of meetings ahead of the landing in Hawaii as well as the status of the plane and the pilot: “The pilot is in a good health status, he slept 2 hours, his mood is ok until now,” said a team member.

2. Emotional roller coaster

The company posted Bertrand Piccard’s emotional speech before the plane landed in Hawaii. It’s quite rare to see such videos in a corporate context. Solar Impulse goes beyond business; it’s a social and human adventure. With tears in his eyes he thanked his team and “Solar Brother”André Borschberg, for their dedication and hard work to make this moment go down in history.“I have a thought for you from all my heart, and I know why were are here today.”

3. Recognizing mistakes is an important way to gain public respect

“The problem stemmed from an evaluation error of how to use the batteries during a steep climb,” said Bertrand Piccard. Admitting a mistake makes a company more human and creates empathy.

4. Transforming negative into positive

“Exploration involves more than raising the flag at the end of a successful journey, it also means delays, problems, and doubts,” explained Bertrand Piccard. André Borschberg shared on Twitter : “It is easy to enjoy great moments in life. One has to learn to enjoy difficult moments.”

5. Thanking supporters

“Solar Impulse will stay in Hawaii thanks to the university of Hawaii, the airport and the authorities,” said Bertrand Piccard “I hope our fans will continue to support us and grow to millions of voices for clean technology.» With a solid foundation of good storytelling put in place, positive media coverage soon followed. The French BFM TV reported: “Hawaii, a welcoming and caring land for Solar Impulse 2” and Pacific Business News reported: “Solar Impulse lands in Hawaii after record-breaking leg of solar flight.” There has also been a strong response on social media, with many retweets of Bertrand Piccard’s speech: “The adventure continues; the impossible takes more time to achieve than the possible.”

6. Turning a potentially dramatic experience into a human revolution

The Chairman tweets almost daily that“@solarimpulseshows that solutions for a cleaner future exist. They can be profitable and create jobs!”and “with @solarimpulse, we want a revolution in people’s mindsets #futureisclean.” While the plane incident could have significantly damaged Solar Impulse’s reputation it actually strengthened their image, starting a revolution in people’s minds.

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Diane Gaillard

Author Diane Gaillard

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