This past month several articles were published about a newly discovered memo from 2012 that discussed how environmentalists should work to deceive the media (and the public) despite their being no evidence for their claims, and sometimes in spite of strong evidence debunking their claims. However, one of the most important aspects of the published memo — how they sought to frame the issue — was neglected in much of the reporting.
In an article from DailyCaller.com, reporter Andrew Follett stated, “The memo instructs environmentalists to focus on attacking any scientific papers that disagree with their conclusions while getting any anti-fracking research ‘popularized in the media.’ It also suggests focusing on emotional and relatable issues, such as mandating fracking be located far away from schools.” (Italics added)
The reality is the environmentalists have been effective in engaging the media and the public because they have been able to connect their message to emotional and relatable issues. It is also apparent that while environmentalist organizations focus on a vast array of different specific issues, when it comes to the fossil fuel industry, their strategy, language, approach and message is singular.
There is a lesson to be learned from the publication of this memo. While it would be easy to focus on what we can learn about the environmentalist organizations’ ethics, perhaps it would be of greater benefit to the oil and natural gas industry to focus on what we can learn. How we can more effectively communicate about our industry to the media and public.
First, it is vital that we connect with people on issues that are important to them. Let’s face it; we live in a increasingly self-interested world. People care about what impacts them directly. To engage the hearts and minds of the public, we must connect with them on issues they genuinely care about and that are emotional and relatable.
In other words, we need to do a better job conversing with people about our industry in terms of their everyday life. The clothes they wear, medicines they take, food on the table, shoes on their kids feet and their very quality of life are dependent on the oil and natural gas industry. We need to move the conversation beyond the price at the pump. We need to move it beyond broad discussions on energy. We need to bring the conversation into the home. We need to make it about individual people and how they benefit from the industry in every aspect of their life.
Second, we need singularity. We all need to be a part of the conversation in our communities about how our industry impacts the lives of people. The oil and natural gas industry has done more to address environmental concerns than any other industry in history. The energy, resources and products we provide for the world have enabled economic prosperity, increased quality of life, created an explosion of innovation and a cleaner, safer world for our children and grandchildren. This is the conversation we need to be having in our communities.
Are there issues of concern that need to be addressed? Certainly. However, they need to be addressed first and foremost from the framework that the oil and natural gas industry is incredibly beneficial to the world.