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  • Ben Finzel

The Common Sense Colloquy One Year Later – My Favorite Comments from our Participants

Updated: Mar 3, 2019


As I conclude the celebration of the first anniversary of the Common Sense Colloquy Q&A series, I’m sharing my favorite quote from each of the twelve brilliant people who participated in our first year. Although I asked each person a different set of questions, the responses aren’t just all wonderful examples of common sense, but they are timely, relevant and insightful about the current state of energy and environment communications and indeed, about communications in general.

At a time when the world seems upside down on a regular basis, common sense can provide both a starting point and an affirmation of what is right, true and meaningful. I think that applies to the wisdom of our Year One participants, particularly as it relates to what we should we be talking about, why it matters and how best to communicate about it. Here’s a look at highlights from their smart, substantive comments:

  • Marcene Mitchell, International Finance Corporation: “As for advice to other communicators in this space, I urge them to drive home a call to action. We are past the point of simply sounding alarm bells on climate change. We need to boil the discussion down from ‘50,000 feet up, 100 years from now’ to ‘what this means here, today, for you.’”

  • Dan Reicher, Stanford University: “In our highly polarized country, the best approach is to emphasize how smart clean energy policy, across a broad array of technologies, advances multiple U.S. interests from competitiveness to security to environment.”

  • Lisa Jacobson, Business Council for Sustainable Energy: “There are still challenges with understanding the scale of clean energy, and the cost. Communications and education is still needed to highlight how cost effective many sustainable energy technologies are and how widely they are being used across the country.”

  • Bill Richardson: “The anti-environment and pro-fossil fuel energy policies of the Trump administration force us to play primarily a defensive game to blunt their relentless efforts to roll back sensible policies from the Obama administration.”

  • Melanie Kenderdine, Energy Futures Initiative: “Energy has always been a complicated subject. What’s changed are the high stakes associated with the transition to a clean energy economy -- explaining to people why this transition matters has never been more important.”

  • John DiStasio, Large Public Power Council: “There is so much competition for the attention of consumers or stakeholders, messages need to be succinct, compelling and aligned with consumer perceptions. Absent that, it is very hard to influence or educate key constituencies.”

  • Shelley Fidler, Van Ness Feldman: “…it is simply a FACT that making the effort to clearly and persuasively communicate with policymakers has never been more necessary and more valuable. At a time when policy chaos is the norm, there remains the need for robust debate, excellent information and respectful communication. These efforts pay off.”

  • Julio Friedmann, Carbon Wrangler: “Overall, it’s still true that most people (and most important people) want to learn and engage positively around facts first and rhetoric second.”

  • Katherine Hamilton, 38 North Solutions: “Strong communications—creating a narrative—is crucial to policy advocacy. You must be able to put your policy into understandable and compelling language, and then pitch that policy in a way that speaks to the policymaker in his or her own terms.”

  • Jason Grumet, Bipartisan Policy Center: “It is difficult in these polarized times to develop ideas and messages that resonate with a large portion of the electorate. Most politicians are choosing to prioritize base enthusiasm over national leadership. If one’s goal is to motivate forty percent of the country, passionate communication anchored in denouncing the “other side,” is very effective. However, if you actually want to create policy that serves the broad national interest, it is necessary to dignify differences and find passion in pragmatism.”

Despite the fact that these twelve people come from different backgrounds and have different experiences and points of view, each of them made a similar point about the wisdom and value of common sense. As we continue our mission of "restoring common sense to communications," we'll follow this advice. Thanks again to each of our participants for joining us in this helpful dialogue.

That does it for Year One of the Common Sense Colloquy Q&A series. Year Two will get underway in March with a fantastic first participant to kick-off what will be another stellar lineup for the series. I hope you’ll follow along and I encourage you to share thoughts, comments and reactions as well in the comments below and on our RENEWPR social channels where we’re posting these blogs: Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.



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