You’re in a Political Candidate’s Crosshairs. Can You Respond?

Energy sector executives, government affairs representatives and communication leaders would be well advised to read this past Sunday’s business section article in The Washington Post headlined, “Trump, 2020 hopefuls are calling out U.S. firms.” It speaks to one of those sector-agnostic phenomena that is as relevant to one industry, and company, as the next. This phenomenon, as reported by The Post, centers on presidential candidates “directly challenging U.S. businesses in a way that historians and communication experts say underscores a new era.”

The practical takeaways relative to this development – which arguably is as applicable to state-level candidates as it is national ones – are twofold:

  1. It is essential to have at the ready a set of talking points that speak to the company’s mission and culture broadly, and other sets of talking points that speak to a company’s particular “hot button” issues and to major news developments that transcend different business sectors.
  2. It is useful as the election season intensifies to compile a record of relevant votes taken and/or statements made by political candidates relative to your company and industry.

With regard to talking points, it will be far easier to respond in real time to media inquiries and to craft appropriate tweets if one’s organization has kept current a general set of messages that align with its mission and brand. In this same vein, if the organization is siting or otherwise supporting development of an energy facility (think natural gas pipeline or wind farm, for example), one can anticipate that political candidates at one level or another are going to weigh in and necessitate something more than a “no comment.” The article in The Post includes good counsel from a communication expert who advises an organization that is attacked not to escalate the situation. Still, organizations fail to defend their reputation at their own peril.

Regular readers of The Washington Post witness a drumbeat of commentary criticizing Dominion Energy, much but not all of it from activists. If nothing else, the commentary is a barometer for impending criticism from political candidates. And beyond needing messages on issues unique to any given company, societal flash points like sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement, privacy, corporate salaries and “Buy American” are all worthy of a customized set of messages in their own right.

With regard to politicians’ voting records and statements, a compilation has value as a common reference point within an organization and as a resource for external stakeholders. In the face of criticism from a political candidate, it would be useful to know what if any pattern that candidate has from a voting or advocacy standpoint.

Developing materials and a range of messages like this can be tedious, but the time invested will be well worth it if and when an inquiry or criticism comes that requires quick response.

EnergyCentral.com

https://www.energycentral.com/c/um/youre-political-candidates-crosshairs-can-you-respond

 

What to Do, and Not to Do, When Writing a News Release

Even in the digital age, news releases matter as a means of shaping and articulating key messages. And especially in the digital age, one could argue, message prioritization matters more than ever.

Not to pick on the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, but the March 14 news release on its latest Reliability Leadership Summit strikes me as a prime example of what NOT to do when writing a news release.

The lede (sic) states, in essence, “We had a meeting; X number of people attended; we talked about stuff.”

Accurate. Noteworthy. And not the message-centric construct that invites the reader to delve more deeply into the subject matter. For those who do, the news release’s second paragraph compounds the problem with a chronological listing of speakers. No driving of a specific theme; no identification of a major achievement; no highlighting of a key hurdle to overcome.

Deeper in the news release, we gain insight into one likely reason that it’s constructed as it is: there’s a bevy of meaty and complex topics on the table, including “current and emerging risks to the reliability and security of the grid; the rapid shift in generation resources; accelerated technology deployment; regulatory and policymaking in an era of unprecedented bulk power system change; reliably integrating record levels of renewable generation into electricity markets; and assuring adequate fuel supplies for power plants.”

I get that. Still, a key responsibility of the communicator drafting the news release is to sift through the complexity and find the theme or two that aligns with the organization’s brand (even when the organization is a not-for-profit regulator). That’s the information that needs to be in the lede. That can be a challenging task, particularly under a heavy work load and tight time constraints. In my view, however, it’s a must-do, not an option, to effectively enhance the organization’s reputation and provide journalists, if not others, with the substance on which you’d like them to focus.

In fairness to NERC, its Dec. 20, 2018 news release on the 2018 Long-Term Reliability Assessment is a better product. This Feb. 5th news release from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce similarly strikes me as one that effectively drives key messages.

Getting eyeballs on a news release is enough of a challenge these days, and a topic for another day. That makes it all the more important that the news release prioritizes information that actually makes it newsworthy.

EnergyCentral.com

https://www.energycentral.com/c/pip/what-do-and-not-do-when-writing-news-release