When it comes to the energy industry, government task forces make predictable recommendations – environmental mitigation, land use, noise pollution, workforce development and more.
So, we took note last month when Pennsylvania’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force offered a unique, but essential recommendation: better public relations. You can read their full report here. Below is an excerpt:
“Public participation is a critical component for pipeline project design, construction and operation. Pennsylvania believes that early and continuous involvement of all stakeholders can help develop better overall pipeline project solutions.” – Pennsylvania Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force.”
The shale revolution has unleashed an historic industry demand for better pipeline infrastructure across the United States. In response, citizens in small towns across America are organizing in opposition to new pipelines in their communities. Not surprisingly, media has taken note.
Proactive communication is often the Achilles Heel of large scale industrial projects, including pipeline projects. Failure to engage the press and the public in a proactive way leaves companies scrambling to undo the damage when public perception turns against them.
Having worked with clients in the energy sector, we abide by a few key principles:
- “No comment” doesn’t cut it. The press does not need your blessing to write about you. Decline comment at your own peril. If they have a good story about how your project impacts their readers, they will publish it. Your job is to get to the press first and try to frame their coverage in a way that accentuates your project’s benefits for their community.
- Know your audience. Understand who you most need to influence, be it policymakers, civic leaders, media or all of the above. Take the time to understand their concerns and tailor your message to alleviate those concerns.
- Be a good neighbor. There is no substitute for the “good neighbor” approach. Treat impacted communities as you would your own neighbor: with respect, empathy and recognition of the need for a cordial, longterm relationship.