Thinking about Hurricane Harvey

Earlier this year I spent three months living in Houston and came to know the city quite well. It’s heartbreaking to see how many are suffering from the ravages of Hurricane Harvey. I know that hundreds if not thousands of recipients of this newsletter are from Houston. I hope all of you are okay and wish you the speediest recovery possible.

Predictably, we’ve seen many stories blaming the damage of the storm on the fossil fuel industry and “climate change.” But those in the industry should feel proud of producing the affordable, reliable energy we need to cope with an inherently dangerous climate.

Before industrial development, and in the underdeveloped world today, storms like Harveyroutinely claimed tens of thousands of lives. That equates to thousands upon thousands of lives saved in Texas thanks to fossil fuels and the development they make possible.

The opponents of fossil fuels trying to use this tragedy to promote their anti-energy, anti-development agenda should be exposed as advocating policies that would make storms like Harvey more dangerous and more deadly.

More broadly, in addition to not demonizing fossil fuels our society should take this occasion to think about how to use industry and technology to become far more storm-proof. Instead of trying to decarbonize our way to some fantasy climate, we should be trying to industrialize and technologize our way toward being able to handle (and maybe even benefit from) large amounts of rain, to make far sturdier buildings, and eventually to neutralize these storms before they make landfall.

Stakeholder Strategy Success

Earlier this week I did another “Stakeholder Strategy Session,” where I work with an organization to generate the best possible to the 10 key questions for stakeholder success:

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

My biggest focus in these sessions is question 5, messaging, since improving messaging is a) my specialty and b) improves everything else.

In preparation for this particular session I worked long and hard with the help or our Director of Education Don Watkins to break down my system of persuasion into a set of highly usable principles (and use-cases) that the organization’s communications team could immediately put into action.

We also shared a lot of CIP’s “master messaging” for companies, from how to state the purpose of their work to how to name their values to how to explain their positions on everything from climate to renewables to energy security.

One comment I got from an attendee who had heard me speak before was that the guidance I shared here was the most concrete and immediately useful she’s heard from me.