A new strategy for industry to win hearts and minds

Ever since I became passionate about fossil fuels 9 years ago, I have regarded the fossil fuel industry as a crucial potential ally in winning hearts and minds. I say “potential” because historically the industry has often done more harm than good for its cause—which is really the cause of everyone who care about human flourishing. The dominant message from industry has been: “Yes fossil fuels are a self-destructive addiction that should be replaced with green energy—but unfortunately it will take us many decades to get off the addiction.”

This message is unpersuasive—and it is false.

i-have-found-that-if-we-reframe-the-conversation-to-always-focus-on-human-flourishingand-the-full-context-many-people-will-be-won-overThrough my research I have found that if we look at the full context of our energy choices by the standard of human flourishing, it is morally necessary for humanity to use more fossil fuels, not less. And through my experimentation with different persuasive approaches I have found that if we reframe the conversation to always focus on human flourishing and the full context (instead of minimum impact and out-of-context attacks) many people will be won over.

Since I started speaking to industry four years ago about the moral case for fossil fuels I have gotten increasing interest from companies and associations who wanted to incorporate my approach to framing the issues. I have very much wanted to help them because the upside potential of a confident, persuasive industry is enormous—and the downside of an apologetic, unpersuasive industry is also enormous.

But it has taken several years to figure out how to help companies and associations in a way that is scalable—a way that can positively influence many different groups instead of just working with one or two.

In the last year, I have developed my most effective tool yet, which I call the Stakeholder Strategy Session. If a company has a communications goal that I believe can make a significant influence in the public debate, I spend a day with executives and communicators developing a fundamentally new strategy based on the proven principles of reframing the conversation along with other key principles of persuasion.

The core of the Stakeholder Strategy Session is a deep dive into the 9 fundamental questions of communications strategy—or, as I sometimes call them, “The 9 Ms”:

  1. Mission: What exactly are we trying to accomplish?
  2. Metrics: How will we measure success?
  3. Markets: What markets or audiences are we trying to persuade?
  4. Messages: What messages will persuade them?
  5. Methods: What methods of explanation will persuade them?
  6. Messengers: Which messengers will be most persuasive to them?
  7. Materials: What form-factors will be most effective?
  8. Media: What media will the messengers deliver the message through?
  9. Money: What is your budget, and why?

Once we spend a day examining these questions I perform an analysis and suggest several strategic options in each category.

The reason why this tool is so powerful is that it generates the best direction and creative ideas at the outset of a project. As Steve Jobs said many times, even a small difference at the outset of a project makes a huge different as it runs its course:

“If you set a vector off into space, and you change its direction just a little bit at the beginning, the difference is dramatic when it gets a few miles out in space. If we can nudge it in the right direction, it will be a much better thing.”

In my experience, our reframing principles and other principles are much more than a “nudge”—they are often the difference between significant impact and no impact (or negative impact).

Next week I will be doing my next strategy session with a large national organization that is committed to truly winning hearts and minds.

If you think a Stakeholder Strategy Session might be valuable for your group, email me directly at alex@industrialprogress.net.

Because of these sessions and because of our other resources, such as The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels and How to Talk to Anyone About Energy, I believe that in five years you will see a far prouder, more persuasive fossil fuel industry. And that will be good for everyone.

Visit our consulting page for more information, or email Alex at alex@industrialprogress.net.