Take a look at this silly article in a “renewables” publication. Oooh… use of NIMBY in the headline and throughout the article. Name-calling is one of the seven common propaganda devices named decades ago by a now defunct U.S. organization, the Institute for Propaganda Analysis.
Name-Calling: “Giving an idea a bad label and therefore rejecting and condemning it without examining the evidence.” This is the use of negative words or labels to create prejudice against some person, group or idea. If you fall for this you have been driven to reach a conclusion without examining the evidence.
Who writes this drivel? A “clean” PR firm drumming up business for “Corporate social media strategy and management.” Take a look at this company’s website. They have written extensively about their “success” with digital media campaigns for “clean” companies. And, hey, look… they have a facebook page. Maybe you want to connect and let them know what you think about their article? They’ve created a post about it. They want your comments. The irony of Tigercomm itself being taught the very lesson it writes about is just too delicious. Let them know what you think about the opinion expressed in their article.
There’s a growing concern within the wind industry that in communities considering hosting wind farms, the loud minority of opponents is increasingly trumping the silent majority of supporters who want the jobs and revenue that come with projects.
At best, Nimby pushback is raising costs through delays. At worse, half-a-billion-dollar wind farms are dying because 50 people shouted at their county commissioners during a public meeting.
Facebook is “the new town square” in rural areas, according to Avangrid Renewables’ director of communications, Paul Copleman, as it’s eclipsed traditional local newspapers, many of which are dying.
Nimby groups organise online, then they show up in the room. The wind IPPs have ceded the digital ground to such an extent that “the opposition is eating our lunch”, according to Matt Wagner, manager of renewable energy development at Detroit-based DTE.
Projects are being built in communities that see undeveloped land as something to be conserved, rather than a resource to be used.
Nimbys are being helped with outside organisers and money, much of it from incumbent energy sources.
The good news? Among the IPP staff on the front lines of community engagement, there is a growing consensus that the industry must up its digital game by more proactively meeting community members where they are – online, not just across the table at the diner.
In a series of interviews with IPP staff, we found widespread agreement on the advantages of increased digital engagement, as well as basic best practices.
They shared nearly a dozen benefits the industry is missing due to digital constraints, including insulating persuadable community members against the predictable arguments of critics; profiling and amplifying supporters’ stories, and creating a credible alternative information source to Nimby Facebook groups.
Interviewees also collectively produced a list of digital best practices for their executive teams to consider, which included starting communicating early, before opposition groups form and gain momentum – it’s a race to define; showing wind farm benefits through supporters’ stories, captured on camera; and showing people the experience of those currently living near existing wind farms.
As Apex Clean Energy vice-president for public affairs, Dahvi Wilson said: “Opponents of one company’s projects can encourage and strengthen opponents to another company’s projects. Like it or not, we’re in the digital boat together. We need more companies to increase their investment in digital community engagement.”
At the staff level, the consensus for upping the industry’s digital game is solid and growing because, as Adam Renz, manager of business development for Pattern Energy, said: “Social media can de-risk projects.”
Presenting “stories” of people who love wind or transmission does little to convince people to support it. Everyone realizes those are paid-for opinions and dismisses them out of hand (sort of like how the NIMBY and “dark money” arguments are supposed to work).
In my 10+ years of grassroots opposition organizing and strategizing, I’ve seen nothing but failure from corporate social media campaigns. They cannot be sanitized effectively, and that’s the foundation of public relations. If a corporation creates a Facebook page, the opponents will swarm it and post negative comments. The corporation must delete comments and block people. The tide of opponents is so strong though, that more keep coming. The Facebook page is like a ghost town, with all comments deleted or not viewable (like where a post says it has 72 comments, but when you try to view them, only 1 shows up, and it’s complimentary). There’s a certain look to infrastructure company social media campaigns that defies the very nature of social media. They are a one-way street with no interaction. Social media is about interaction. Without that, it’s just a webpage. Essentially, infrastructure company Facebook pages are nothing but a website. But they’re a fun-filled website where opponents get to post their opinions for everyone to read (until they’re removed by the corporation). We have fun playing cat and mouse with you folks when we have free time, or just need a quick giggle to get through a difficult project.
Get ready, Tigercomm… isn’t it almost time for lunch?
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