Clean Power Plan Communications: An Idea Book for Communicators

January 12, 2016

Maintaining a steady drumbeat of media and communications on a long-term issue or campaign that spans an extended period can be a challenge. After an initial wave of coverage, there are periodic bursts of media connected to major developments, but public exposure eventually tapers off as the media lose interest and move on to the next shiny thing and advocates exhaust the arrows in their communications quivers.

The Clean Power Plan is a perfect example. EPA’s proposal for reducing carbon pollution from existing coal-burning and gas-fired power plants was announced in the summer of 2014, the final standard came out in the summer of 2015, initial state plans are due in the fall of 2016, and state planning may continue for a couple more years after that. Years in the making.

Over such an extended time frame, the long-game is crucial to the success of media and communication strategies supporting strong state compliance with the Clean Power Plan. 

And sometimes a little inspiration can help.

To assist groups and communities in keeping up a steady flow of media over the long haul, Resource Media has compiled a Clean Power Plan Idea Book for advocates and communities. The Idea Book provides a smorgasbord of examples for communicators to turn to in the coming months – a reminder to get the word out and to spark an idea or some creativity. 

The Idea Book is not meant to be exhaustive nor one size fits all since appropriate tactics and messaging will vary greatly from state to state. 

It also isn’t a recommendation about which specific messages to use. Some states are emphasizing coal plant retirements, others renewables and aggressive energy efficiency, and some, unfortunately, are digging their heels in the ground to fight the plan tooth and nail. Obviously, it would be a nearly impossible to come up with universal messaging that satisfies all the variations; words that touch a chord in Oregon almost certainly wouldn’t work in Kentucky.

Rather the Idea Book is more akin to a catalog for easy browsing on media tactics and ideas, to take or leave or tailor and adapt.

Examples, links and resources in the Idea Book are grouped into categories, including spotlighting support from businesses and local electeds;  thinking outside the box in drafting ever-important op-ed pieces; harnessing the power of polling and data from reports; pitching profiles and features; novel approaches to online outreach; and more

One category is ‘Hitching a Ride on Other News Hooks.’ We often wait for something official to happen to get the comms engines running. But relevant hooks can come in many shapes and sizes. Some are gravely serious, like the Feb. 2 anniversary of Duke Energy’s disastrous coal-ash spill into North Carolina’s Dan River. Others more uplifting, like the U.S. surpassing 20 gigawatts of installed solar capacity. And some can even be amusing, like National Backward Day (since perhaps it’s backward to keep prolonging our use of coal for electricity?).

Opportunities abound for writing a blog, an op-ed or for pitching a story: things like notable anniversaries, important milestones, holidays, celebrations, awards and ceremonies can all be used to tout the benefits of the Clean Power Plan and a transition to clean energy and more energy efficiency.

If digital and social media are part of your communication strategy, consider some of the creative ways that others have dreamt up. From virtual clean energy tours to online surveys and direct action, the web offers myriad avenues for getting the word out and getting it to the right audiences.

With more than a hundred examples, links and tips in the Idea Book, we hope you’ll find at least an item or two for inspiration!

Eric Frankowski