Proposed power plants, wind farms and transmission lines are monumental public relations projects. That’s because they require working with many stakeholders (residents, businesses, elected officials, regulators), conducting public outreach (open houses, town hall meetings), changing public opinion (editorials, testimonials) and fighting misinformation (media relations, social media).
Here are five best practices to help you get your energy or utility project approved:
1. Say the right things from the start. Conduct a survey to understand what’s important to the public, and base some of your messages from the results. The general theme of your messaging strategy should explain need and reinforce benefits to residents and businesses. Media train all personnel–even engineers–so that a consistent set of talking points is propagated.
2. Brand your campaign. Have a theme that unifies all your collateral and ads, from your website to newsletter to radio spots to brochures to social media accounts. And of course, use your aforementioned messaging strategy in your collateral.
3. Demonstrate how public outreach matters. Make it clear that everything is up for discussion and that no firm decisions have been made. Have an abundance of ways for residents to leave their input, and show them how that input is shaping the proposal. In addition, it’s important to educate the public and inoculate them from the inevitable misinformation from your opposition. Think tradeshow displays, maps, videos and models as required items at your events.
4. Be a part of the community. Sometimes a little goes a long way. Get to know the people whose lives you’re affecting. Be a sponsor of their 4th of July festival. Help them build a new playground in their park. Attend their city council meetings.
5. Measure how you’re doing throughout the campaign. Check that you’re reaching your key performance indicators (KPIs)–for example, number of positive editorials, letters-to-editor and op-eds; number and type of supporters; and position of elected officials. However, it’s more important to keep polling the public to see if your efforts are moving the needle, so to speak. If not, change your strategy and/or tactics.