The Common Sense Colloquy: Q&A with Roger Ballentine of Green Strategies
We’re continuing Year Two of the Common Sense Colloquy with a new Q&A about communicating on challenging subjects, advising world leaders and the importance of knowing your audience with Roger Ballentine of Green Strategies.
Roger is a former White House staffer in the Clinton administration and an acknowledged expert on energy and environmental policy and technology. He served as Chairman of President Clinton’s White House Climate Change Task Force and Deputy Assistant to the President for Environmental Initiatives. Today, he is president of Green Strategies, an advisory firm that works with leading companies and organizations on a broad range of energy and environmental issues.
Roger currently serves on the Board of NetPower LLC, and the Advisory Boards of the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Clean Capital LLC, 8 Rivers Capital, Uptake Technologies, and the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), where he was a founding Board member in 2001. He is a member of Ingersoll Rand’s Advisory Council on Sustainability. Roger also serves as the Co-Chair of the Aspen Institute’s Clean Energy Innovation Forum and is a Trustee of The Nature Conservancy’s MD-DC Chapter.
We’ve had the pleasure of working with Roger several times and currently collaborate with him on behalf of RENEWPR client the Carbon Capture Coalition. Roger is that rare combination of policy and technology expert and smart communicator: he knows how to succinctly and appropriately explain challenging issues. We consider ourselves lucky to call him both friend and colleague.
Our BIG thanks to Roger for sharing his time and insight with us – and you.
Q: We seem to be at a unique point in our history in terms of opportunity for action on energy, environment and climate change policies: we’re more polarized than ever yet there does seem to be bipartisan political interest in action on at least a few priorities. How should advocates be communicating about their priorities in this political climate?
A: Of course, it depends a bit on the audience, but your question suggests a mistake that advocates often make: talking exclusively in terms of “their” priorities, instead of communicating opportunities for shared value/shared progress – and doing so with awareness of and empathy for those who might not share in the near term benefits of a clean energy transition.
Q: You’re known as someone who communicates about complex and challenging topics directly and succinctly. What advice do you have for communicators considering how to make energy, environment and climate issues understandable?
A: All people and policymakers worth talking to either think that climate change is real or think that it might be. Then the question is what to do about it and why. “Why” is about managing risk (which we do in every other aspect of our economy, our families, and our national well-being) and preserving the world for our kids. “What” is about investment in and transition to an equal or greater prosperity across the economy by building a clean energy economy.
Q: In your impressive career, you have advised presidents and CEOs (among many others). Now we have a president who was a CEO who doesn’t seem that interested in energy, environmental or climate advocacy. If you were advising him on energy, environmental and climate change policy, what would you tell him?
A: I don’t think he cares about either the moral or economic arguments for action. But I would tell him that he can “brand” a new energy economy in his name (not literally, please) and succeed in that where all other Presidents have failed. Nothing but ego to appeal to.
Q: What’s that the best “common sense” advice about communications you’ve received from others?
A: Know your audience and what motivates them.
Q: What’s the best “common sense” advice about communications you’ve given to others?
A: Again, know your audience, understand them, listen as much as you speak, have humility, and then frame your message not in terms of just what you want to say, but also in terms of what your audience wants to hear. Find that win-win message.