RWE is an international energy company focused on smart grids and customer solutions to drive the energy transition in Europe and in the U.S. In October 2019, RWE purchased E.ON Climate & Renewables (SCM’s original client), becoming the world’s fourth largest renewable energy company. In the U.S., RWE is focused on solar and wind farms and battery storage (and has more than 25 wind farms in the U.S.). RWE pursues 40 to 60 new wind and solar farms and battery storage developments per year in the U.S.
With nearly every development RWE attempts to pursue, it faces increasingly aggressive resistance from opposition groups (who are often supported and funded by “outside interests”). RWE sometimes also competes against other developers for the same projects. The opposition is well organized, efficient, and relentless with sharing negative and false information. Their messaging often resonates with residents (wind farms spoil the landscape, will harm people, will ruin the water table, will destroy property values, etc.). Stymied from the start by opponents’ taking control of others the narrative, RWE struggled with launching developments as quickly and frequently as desired. E.ON originally came to SCM to help build a sophisticated public and community relations effort to help identify and convey key facts, create and share positive stories, develop a positive narrative, win over local entities, leverage our supporters and get a fair chance at creating wind farms in rural America.
SOLUTION / ACTIVITIES
SCM created an integrated, multi-channel communications and outreach plan for RWE to educate local communities on the benefits of wind energy and to compete against opposition groups (and other developers). We work to communicate key information early and often, via the right channels and to build two-way communications with constituents in each community where RWE looks to develop.
These are some of the primary initiatives SCM has pursued:
- Foundational communications (key audiences, materials): We first identified important constituents, including landowners, residents, local government officials, business organizations, nonprofit groups, local media and others.
Then we created foundational materials to share who RWE is and isn’t, and what it has to offer these folks and their communities. We also address their specific concerns. With media, we organize sit-downs with reporters to introduce them to RWE; and create and leverage news releases, fact sheets, and writing and placing op-eds.
- Paid placements: We created copy and design for print ads, billboards and inserts; negotiated media buys; and produced several campaigns. We also produced several radio spots.
- Direct mail: We wrote and designed several compelling direct-mail pieces.
- Local market websites: We designed, wrote, coded and launched RWE’s first local-market website, www.clintonwind.com, and created three more: www.tristatewind.com, www.eauclairewind.com and www.greenswitchwind.com. These sites are critical to quickly counter opposition, share key information, reach constituents and give RWE a more complete identity.
- Video: SCM has also produced b-roll and several “full-story” videos for RWE. The pieces include new program openings, ribbon-cuttings on new developments, expert speaker Q&As and community events – all of which can be repurposed for other markets.
- Media relations: We create and pitch compelling background and human-interest stories to local print and broadcast media; write and distribute news releases and statements; write and place letters to the editors; and build and maintain ongoing relationships with all relevant media in several markets.
- Community open house: SCM helped to organize several facets of an open house for 250 community members in rural Indiana (handling event planning, catering, media relations, video and more).
- Best practices recommendations / guidebook: We proactively created a 20-page, best-practices guide to help RWE up its game with advertising, media relations, websites, community engagement, social media and more. We researched and cited many examples of what other energy companies and opposition groups were doing, and recommended how RWE could utilize and improve upon these approaches and tactics.
- Assets database recommendations / guidebook: We created a recommendations memo outlining a plan for how RWE can develop an online depository / database of key tools for all development managers and communications pros to access and share.
- 14-point plan for future developments: We created a 10-page list of 14 specific initiatives RWE should pursue with every new development, from the start, to help own the narrative and win over the community.
- Single-landowner initiatives: We are finding, reaching out to and working with gatekeepers and influencers – in commercial property, forestry, land trust, county lands, agricultural, private landowners and other sectors – to identify 12,000+-acre plots of land to develop into wind and solar farms. This will streamline the costs, timing and effort involved with creating new developments.
SCM has helped RWE to:
- Reach, educate, win over and secure new supporters in the communities in which RWE has tried (and works) to develop wind energy.
- Earn dozens of print and broadcast media placements.
- Correct and discredit many opposition arguments and balance the media narrative.
- Create a sophisticated approach (and an arsenal of communications materials) to support proactive communications, community relations and public affairs.
- Reconsider and begin to augment its broader approach to all levels of communications, marketing and overall outreach.
- Have a fair shot in its battle against other wind-energy developers and opposition groups.
- Secure more than a dozen partners (from within agriculture, forestry, public lands, corporations, the wealthy and others) to help identify new, single-landowner parcels to develop into wind or solar farms. As a result, RWE now has a pipeline of dozens of potential single-landowner parcels to lease and develop into wind and solar farms.