The article below was Published June 2012 in Electric Light & Power Magazine.
As energy companies realize the benefits of proactively countering or avoiding NIMBYism to their projects, they need appropriate campaigning techniques.
Companies in NIMBY fights must ensure the proper messages reach the public.
NIMBY activists are in it to win it. Groups protest loud and proud, but their motives often stem from misinformation and poor communication between project representatives and the community.
Companies frequently wait until opposition arises to hire a public affairs firm. By then residents have solidified their positions, making it more difficult for companies to sway opinion in a project’s favor.
Some companies say the added cost of a public affairs firm is not worth it to the project budget, but how much does it cost when a project is delayed weeks, months or years is outright denied approval?
Some companies fight NIMBY on their own. Hiring a specialized firm, however, provides the necessary tools and tactics for victory. Trained professionals from a grassroots firm can ensure the correct message from a company is distributed throughout the community and silent majority is heard.
Companies often mistake public relations for public affairs based on selling projects with glamorized ads rather than running a targeted political campaign that counters opponents’ efforts.
Tactics such as door-to-door canvassing, identification phone banking, direct mail and polling are critical to countering NIMBYism. Many grassroots public affairs campaigns should follow simple rules:
Rule No. 1: Educate first, then identify. Don’t try to identify your project supporters until you have researched extensively to educate yourself appropriately. If you disseminate project facts first, you will gain many ardent supporters and maximize your spending.
Rule No. 2: Identify supporters and code them into a database. Effective database organization is crucial to campaign success. Whether identification is achieved through direct mail, radio, phone calls or email, an unorganized list of supporters and undecided residents doesn’t do your campaign any good. In putting your supporters into a database allows you to separate them by town, county and legislative districts for effective grassroots lobbying.
Rule No. 3: Do not rely solely on email. Believe it or not, people do not use the Internet regularly. Many people belong to an older demographic that of then favors development. Advertising a website to contact is beneficial, but always include a toll-free number so non-Internet users may contact you.
Rule No. 4: Do not focus only on third-party groups for support. Third party groups are critical for your efforts, but often a few dozen regular citizens who show up at hearings and meetings can benefit your project tremendously.
Rule No. 5: Be transparent. The last outcome you want is for your public affairs campaign to become a public relations nightmare. Just as projects have engineers, lawyers and scientists, they can have community relations specialists. Be open about your outreach.
These are just few potential rules a public affairs grassroots campaign can use to counter project opposition.
Campaigns should be designed on factors such as the target population size, level of opposition and the length of the entitlement process.
Grassroots campaigns create local support to assist your efforts. Support groups can promote projects through social networking. Proactive support groups also generate volunteers who become increasingly committed and supportive.
Regardless of the industry or location, NIMBYism attempts to curb proposals.
It can attack any project, no matter how big or small.
Employing proper campaign tactics and developing the right grassroots campaign can counter NIMBYism to your projects.