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Tactics to counter public opposition to your clean energy project

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Blogger, Al Maiorino, sets out the tactics employed by renewable energy companies to combat opposition to new projects and turn the tide of public opinion in renewables’ favour. While new social media such as Twitter are great tools, the President and founder of Public Strategy Group also reports that more traditional methods such as direct mail, phone banking, and canvassing techniques are also effective.
Tactics to counter public opposition to your clean energy project

Today in working to combat NIMBY type opposition we often employ the use of new technologies and mediums of communication. Facebook, Twitter, and various real-time social media platforms have become a central focus of many Public Relations organizations hoping to reach their target demographics. These tactics are certainly effective and produce results in a number of ways. It is safe to say even, that in our modern world a communication organization cannot completely reach its full potential without these vehicles of communication.

However, when working with particular communities to create effective communication and understanding, traditional, tried and true campaign tactics such as direct mail, phone banking, and canvassing can often prove effective as well for alternative energy campaigns. Many companies often overlook these tactics because they seem archaic and outdated in our rapidly moving world. If these mediums are excluded, companies are doing their target audiences a great disservice.

Let’s review the ways in which traditional communicative mediums serve communities effectively. Traditional tactics vary in their effectiveness and their frequency of use. Three particular methods work best in order to forge quality relationships between an organization and a community.

Direct Mail Campaigns: Direct mail campaigns serve a variety of purposes, and through thorough analysis and understanding of their results they generally prove quite indicative. Direct mail should be set up to inform and gauge targeted communities. On the one hand, the direct mail should inform the public of the on-going discussion of a certain project. Through providing accurate and useful information we are able to debunk any general misinformation regarding the project. On the other hand, in presenting a series of questions in the mail for individuals to answer, we are able to effectively understand the range of support or opposition to a particular development.

Direct mail is a vital element in the development of any renewable energy project. These developments generally have a large support base, yet some advocates may fail to voice their opinions and beliefs. Direct mail allows companies to identify supporters in order to ultimately motivate these individuals to ardently back the progress of a new project.

Phone Banking: Phone banking, is an easy and important process that can work to further your understanding of a particular community. By calling households by the thousands with a few short questions we are able to identify supports and determine their level of support. In understanding the extent of their advocacy we can engage in discussion regarding potential steps they can take to become more involved in the discussion. For example, this involvement may include writing a letter to the governing town body, speaking on behalf of the supporting constituency, or simply attending a town meeting.    

Canvassing: Canvassing is an important aspect of traditional, tried and true campaigning. Through canvassing, we take our analysis of support one step further by entering into real time, face to face discussion with individuals who may either support or oppose a project. Canvassing is a tactic that has been completely forgotten by a variety of public affairs organizations because in today’s world, a great deal of our communication occurs through technology. As a result of this changing element of communication, there seems to be a lack of personal relationships between public affairs and individuals of communities. Canvassing offers an opportunity to meet your target audience face to face, and discuss, inform, and forge relationships with individuals.

Renewable energy projects often create a good deal of controversy. Some people enjoy discussing the benefits of these developments whereas other individuals don’t think these resources are worth time, money, and space. Meeting face to face with opposition shows that we respect their opinions, and that we are listening to their argument and desires.

 Today, renewable energy projects face a variety of obstacles to overcome in their development. NIMBY type opposition will often oppose a new project regardless of its various benefits. This opposition sometimes founds its beliefs on misinformation and other times it genuinely opposes any new developments that may take place in its region. Renewable energy also faces problems through lack of advocacy from supporters. That is to say, there is often a group that appreciates the benefits of certain projects, but is tentative to speak its mind.

Traditional, tried and true tactics create personal, real time relationships with both sides of a dispute. This connection allows companies to understand their communities better, and through this understanding, solid communication eventually drives the progress of a development.

Therefore, while use of new technology and communicative mediums is vastly important in the public affairs realm, let us not forget the great variety of tactics at our disposal. It is vital that all organizations strive to create personal relationships with communities and engage in face to face conversations, as opposed to communicating through a digital screen.

Through these traditional, tried and true tactics public affairs organizations can effectively work to initiate the development of renewable energy projects in a respectable and engaging manner.

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