Presenting your project with the right contrast will put you in a better position to earn public support.
By failing to present a compelling contrast you open the door for your audience, or more likely your project opponents, to cast a negative contrast. Everything is compared or contrasted to something and that helps shape how we view the same set of facts.
This is a lesson we learned as kids playing the old parlor game where you would put a hand in a bucket of warm water and the other in a bucket of cold. Then you would plunge both hands into a third warm bucket. The hand previously in hot would feel extreme cold where the other hand, in the same warm water, would feel unbearably hot.
This is all about a principle in human perception, it’s called the contrast principle and it affects how we evaluate things, especially if they are presented one after another.
Simply put, if the second item is better than the first, we will see it as even better than it really is – this contrast principle influences how people evaluate the merits of your plans.
With energy projects, the standard contrast is the promise of a perfect clean alternative just on the horizon, the allure of some perfect solution can be a tempting option. Likewise, the option of the status quo is particularly appealing because of the fear of the unknown, as long as nothing changes there is nothing to fear. In either case that is not helpful as you present your project.
When the public has a choice between nothing and the potential impacts of your project, they are likely to choose nothing.
If we present a project in a vacuum without contrast, our audience (community and decision-makers) will create their own contrast or as we see is the case with anti-fossil fuels activists across the nation. In either case, your plan becomes a risk or gamble as compared to the better alternative.
We look to find the realistic alternative to contrast with your project and then we test it in our research or real-time in digital/social media.
Recently we helped earn approval for the first east coast LNG export terminal where the contrast was the key.
The project sought to turn an old LNG important terminal into a state-of-the-art export terminal to ship American abundant natural gas to Asia. Opponents were framing the project as an unnecessary risk for the community and not worth the tax dollars and construction jobs it would provide.
We presented the project as a point of pride for the community by helping improve the global environment by shipping clean natural gas to replace struggling nations reliance on dirty fuels that were harming local resident and the environment. The choice was framed as simply using the turning the flow of gas in the pipeline that had long been part of the community to do something good or continue to have an underutilized LNG infrastructure in the county and allow other nations to suffer the consequences of continually burning dirty fuel. The project earned overwhelming support in the community which we leveraged to get unanimous state and federal approvals.
To succeed you should find a realistic alternative to your plans and present it first, making your plans more acceptable.
Have a question, call John Davies with your challenge at 805 963 5929. He loves a challenge.