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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Does the Fracking Debate Basically Just Boil Down to a PR Battle?

Last week we linked to an article written by Richard Levick for Forbes which said that the recent bans of fracking by communities showed that activists were winning the PR battle over the industry through more skillful use of the internet and social media.

Tom Wilber has a thoughtful post about that article's premise on his Shale Gas Review blog.  Here is a portion:
I found Levick’s points relevant enough to merit posting on my own Facebook Page, with this comment: “PR & the fracking war. Big Oil & Gas $ versus anti-fracking organization. Media expert Richard Levick explains natgas industry’s failure in Forbes.”

A reader, perhaps interpreting my post as an endorsement of Levick’s industry coaching, responded that the article was misguided, as the anti-fracking battle transcends a PR contest. She left this query. “He thinks it just comes down to a pr battle. What do you think?” Fair question, and one that – given it was posted on facebook and I am now responding on Blogger -- illustrates the influence of the new media that Levick writes about.

So here’s my answer: As a journalist, I’m always interested in how a message is conveyed, the degree to which it peaks public interest, people’s perceptions, and what influences them. I welcome analysis from informed observers, and in this regard I think Levick’s piece rings true… mostly. The industry has done a lousy job from the start explaining itself with a patronizing “Trust-Us-It’s-Safe” message. This assessment is not just from Levkick, but is shared by notable industry supporters as well as skeptics, and it applies to both the industry’s traditional advertising campaigns in print and broadcast, as well as its social media efforts. Tom Ridge, former Pennsylvania-governor-turned-public-relations-figurehead for the industry, told an Associated Press reporter that the industry had to do a better job conveying a positive public image and “they know they have some work to do.” That was in 2010. 
Read that whole posting here. 

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