Showing posts with label environment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label environment. Show all posts

Friday, April 20

Going Social: NASA Turns Earth Day Blue

While NASA sometimes struggles with public relations to justify loftier goals and big ideas like a moon colony, there is no doubt that the agency is starting to find footing with social media. While the program is best described as fledgling (only because it lacks cohesion), there is something that can be learned from it.

Specifically, NASA is hosting Earth Day activities for three days in Washington D.C. and two days in Long Beach, Calif., but its physical presence is only the beginning of its efforts in support of Earth Day. Portions of the program will take advantage of real-time communication and engagement.

How NASA Communicates On Earth Day. 

• National Mall in Washington D.C. The main location will be held in Washington D.C., with three days of displays and presentations open to the public at the "NASA Village," mostly held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. On Friday, there will also be live presentations hosted on the Earth Day Network stage (12th Street and Jefferson Drive SW).

Live Webcast And Scientist Chat. Focusing on A High-Tech Checkup of Earth's Vital Signs on Saturday, NASA scientists will take people on a world tour from the vantage point of space, providing insights that can only be made possible from orbiting sensors. The webcast is scheduled to air 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 21. It will be viewed online at the NASA Village.

NASA Earth Day Video Contest. Independent of these efforts, NASA is asking people to share their vision of what NASA's exploration of Earth means by creating a short 15-second to 2-minute video. The contest is being hosted by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and participants are invited to draw from NASA's image gallery. Submissions will be accepted April 22 to May 31.

• NASA Center Activities, Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Other than being mentioned via NASA's Twitter and Facebook accounts, there will be another location-based event on Saturday and Sunday. Held at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif., attendees will share science research about our ocean planet, using exhibits and hands-on learning demonstrations for all ages.

How NASA Could Have Communicated Earth Day. 

All of the above efforts are admirable and certainly a step in the right direction, especially because they employ both physical locations and social media. But I cannot help wondering how NASA could have created a campaign with a greater national or global scope, something that could have captivated the world. Such a campaign might have included:

• YouTube video contest leading up to the Earth Day event (as opposed to after the fact).
• A social media campaign encouraging the media and bloggers to support an event.
• Ten physical locations supporting three days of featured events at staggered times (plus exhibits).
• The eleventh location would naturally be held on the International Space Station.
• A dedicated Ustream program that cuts into main events at each location on a rotating basis.
• Social media support for all of those rotating activities over the course of three days.

The concept is only a thumbnail, but NASA has enough locations around the United States to tighten its proximity to the public across the country — Texas, New Mexico, and Florida not withstanding. Such an effort could possibly bring the nation together on the successes of NASA not just in space, but on planet Earth as well.

Then again, I've never understood why this country hasn't made an effort to declare a national Space Day (of observance) on July 20, enabling NASA to make Earth Day a minor practice run for a much bigger event. After all, July 20 remains one of humankind's greatest accomplishments, underscoring that our destiny points to the stars if we ever want to gain a better perspective about the planet we call home. It seems to me, we don't think about space exploration enough.

Wednesday, February 29

Speaking For SUVs: The Lorax?

Some people are saying the recent decision to cross-market the upcoming movie treatment of the Lorax and the Mazda's CX-5 could be the marketing mismatch of the decade. In a commercial featuring an animated CX-5 driving through a Truffula tree forest, the narrator suggests that the CX-5 has received "the only Truffula tree seal of approval."

Emblazoned on screen while the narrator touts the endorsement is the seal, proclaiming "Certified Truffula Tree Friendly. We Care An Awful Lot!" Only the Lorax seems a bit perturbed in the spot, poking grouchy fun at the repetitiveness of the spot and demanding equal billing at the end.

An anti-commericalism film that promotes cars? 

One of the many growing complaint columns about the commercial, this one by Devin Faraci, summed: "Sometimes I feel like satire is dead, and that's because everything in this world is so insane and screwed up that making fun of it feels redundant."

Faraci cares an awful lot. But he doesn't care more than Zozo. Zozo is a Hensen-created creature that was created to help educate children and their families about the environment. This includes how people think about combustion vehicles in general. Since the blowback began, Zozo has been voicing concern on Twitter and recently joined the "Rethinking the Automobile" project by Mark Gordon.

"This advertising campaign goes directly against the message and spirit of the Lorax," said Zozo in a release put out by OpenPlans. "The Lorax speaks for the trees, not the SUVees! I urge Universal, Mazda and their partners to immediately remove from circulation any and all advertising that uses Dr. Seuss's character the Lorax to promote and sell Mazda automobiles."

But how serious is Mazda about the promotion of the CX-5 as an environmentally friendly SUV? Enough that it would boost its advertising budget by 25 percent. According to Car Pro, that means advertising will be about $325 million to embed its new term, Skyactiv technology, into the language.

The chief marketing officer for Mazda North America went so far as to say that the pairing of the Lorax and the CX-5 is a natural fit (probably because it gets 28 miles per gallon). Along with the campaign, Mazda also launched a test-drive program that would benefit the NEA Foundation with a donation up to $1 million in support of public school libraries.

On the other side of the spectrum, some in the petroleum and logging industries have said that the film unfairly attacks them. And that is a curious thing that makes the Faraci quote stand out all the more.

When you think of an environmental-themed book being made into a multimillion dollar movie being marketed by a car company that promotes test drives for books causing two benefiting suppliers to be up in arms (petroleum for cars and trees for paper), there isn't any room left for satire.

The only thing that could make it more interesting is if the people who make Snuggies came out against the film. (They look like thneeds.) But then again, I might be biased. The Lorax sports a mustache.

Friday, November 4

Grabbing Attention: Spontaneous Combustion

Social media is having a dramatic impact on advertising. And sometimes its influence we could all do without. The newest online video for global climate change is the perfect example. The advertisement was created as a pro bono spot by a New York advertising agency.

The commercial has a lot going for it. It has attention-grabbing special effects. It has a reasonably clever tagline. And, on creative merit alone, it kind of works.

But it doesn't work. 

The commercial is simple enough, showing a man in a business suit, screaming into his cell phone about how he doesn't care about the environment. And slowly, as the spot evolves, he begins to smoke and catch fire until he suffers a fate right out of the paranormal playbook — spontaneous combustion.

Okay, most people will get it. The point of the spot is to target and vilify people who have doubts about global warming and climate change, playing off the pun of "liar, liar, pants on fire."

When considering how to create real positive change in the world, clever doesn't always get the job done. Sure, from a social media perspective, it has some ingredients people chase after. But let's think about what it doesn't have.

• It's a shout down, aiming to vilify as opposed to providing tangible solutions.
• It's political, designed to separate people on a specific point instead of working together.
• It's sharable, but only among people who already believe in climate change.
• It's the wrong message, because climate change doesn't only impact people who don't believe in it.
• It's very much a sleight-of-hand game, driving people to something other than an environmental group.

The spot detracts from environmental groups.

The benefactor of this spot is the William J. Clinton Foundation. The goal of the foundation is to develop sustainable businesses in Rwanda, provide meals to children in Colombia, and spread a unique model of philanthropy around the world. None of those things is bad. They are admirable. And the foundation has made progress in several areas around the world.

Climate change is a very small part of what the organization does, with its emphasis on creating initiatives that lower carbon emissions in some cities. It does not link to the Global Climate Change Initiative, as some have reported. It links to a foundation that links specific businesses to government municipalities. It helps find funding for business partners entering green energy. It provides MRV and project development to deforestation.

There is nothing wrong with any of that per se (with some exceptions that I won't address today). The foundation has done some solid work. And I expect it will continue to do so. At the same time, I cannot help but wonder whether there are better places to support and help fund climate change organizations.

The social impact on advertising detracts. 

The most powerful spot ever created with an environmental message was, without question, the crying Indian for Keep America Beautiful. (And the best non-advertisement was The Lorax.)

When you compare the crying Indian to the combustible spot, it provides a powerful contrast between advertising yesterday and advertising today. The reason the crying Indian spot worked was because it didn't vilify anyone, but showed us something about ourselves that we were ignoring and reminded us that we had a choice. It brought people together. And it didn't even need cleverness to be powerful.

Making a better climate change commercial. 

Politicizing advertising for the benefit of social media sharing sucks. Imagine how much more powerful the advertisement would have been showing us a future world where global warming had an impact, like a kid looking at a Judge Dredd city from across a barren wasteland.

The spot could then circle around from his point of view, center on his eyes, and tap into his collective memory with a collage of ancestral choices that eventually lead to his great-great grandfather (present day) making an environmental choice. With the present day character making a different choice, we can end on a very different world for the boy who appears in the opening of the spot.

The message would be something that brings people together, that neither climate change advocates nor detractors can argue. That message would have to be centered on the idea that climate change — whether mostly natural or manmade — is an invalid argument.

We all know humans contribute to climate change, and we ought not to waste time arguing about the degree to which we are responsible. If we can cut carbon emissions, be more environmentally aware, and take small actions that add up over millions and billions of people, the world would be a better place for us to live regardless.

Now that's a message more people might agree upon, much like they did when they first saw the crying Indian. Quickly clever special effects laden advertising will possibly get more attention. But there comes a point when you have to ask yourself — what good does exposure to the wrong message really do? Exactly.

Friday, April 22

Making Commitments: Earth Day Network

One of the most valuable lessons I've ever learned (and shared) is the power of one. I learned this lesson when one advertising great pulled out a palm-sized bed of nails and laid his hand upon it much like art that originated in India. Nothing happened.

"See," he said. "When you have too many points, nothing sticks." It was a very effective visual lesson, and his only point.

Advertising works just like this old street-festival spectacle. It's all about weight distribution. If you place equal emphasis on thousands of points, there is too much information for anyone to make an informed decision. Focus on one point; it sticks.

How To Make One Billion Acts Of Green Stick.

As important as Earth Day can be, it has lost some of its impact as it became more commercialized. Nowadays, some of the biggest supporters are organizations that may or may not even be all that kind to the environment. It's hard to say so let's focus on something that works.

One idea that I really appreciated this year comes from the Earth Day Network. It is asking people to make one pledge, written and posted, that will ultimately help our planet.

Over 100 million people had already participated last week. People are sharing pledges to take small and large actions this year — not just for one day, but for a lifetime. And what I like so much about this idea is that those people who pledge the smallest contributions — one thing — are much more likely to stick with it.

A few highlights: One person pledged to turn off the tap when they brush their teeth and another person pledged to purchase more local food. Another person pledged to plant a garden at school and yet another pledged to change their lightbulbs for more energy conservation. One person pledged to turn off the shower when they shampoo and another pledged to install dual toilet flows.

Sure, there are bigger pledges. But I like the small ones because they are one-time reachable goals that are much more likely to stick. And, even if it doesn't seem like a lot, one billon of those actions (even 100 million) add up to a significant impact.

The Earth Day Network also goes a long way in making suggestions, broken down into categories that include green schools and education, advocacy, energy, transportation, sustainable development, conservation and biodiversity, recycling and waste, and water. People can also join pledges that other people have already created.

It's the power of one point. It's the power of one personal action. And it's magnified by the number of people who participate.

Thursday, April 22

Overdosing On Climate Change: Earth Day

"Mister!" he said with a sawdusty sneeze. "I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues. And I am asking you, sir, at the top of my lungs" — he was very upset as he shouted and puffed — "What's that THING you've made out of my Truffula tuft?"

For most people, Earth Day started some 40 years ago. For me, given I was only 3, it started a year later in 1971. 1971 was when was the year Random House published The Lorax by Dr. Suess. It was also the same year Iron Eyes Cody debuted as the "crying Indian" in the "Keep America Beautiful" public service announcement campaign. The messages matched the appetite of the populous.

There were lessons to be learned. We could all do our part. All of it was in our best interest.

Wisconsin was well ahead of the environmental bell curve too. Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed Earth Day in 1969 and had intended it to raise environmental consciousness through rallies, symposiums, and discussions on college campuses and in cities across the country. His work had started much earlier as governor. Earth Day matched the sentiment of the state, especially because of its blended assets with forests and lakes to the north, farm and dairy land to the south, and industry to the east along Lake Michigan.

So what happened on the way to a greener planet in the last 40 years?

Geoff Livingston made an excellent observation about Earth Day yesterday. There isn't as much fanfare about Earth Day.

The answer might be found, in part, from another observation last year in the Washington Times. They compared Arbor Day and Earth Day to conclude that Arbor Day was largely non-political and positive where was Earth Day was political and pessimistic.

When did that happen? While the stage was already set, the shift in direction of our environmental conscience occurred in 2006 with the winds of climate change and global warming. The inconvenient truth was very much like a wild part of proof for all of us concerned about the environment, but it eventually came with one of the worst hangovers ever because some of the numbers were fudged.

That wasn't the worst of it. The inconvenient truth also took away the individual's ability to do their part and focused heavily on regulating others to do their part. The immediate impact of divide and conquer politics becomes clear enough. It shifts attention away from what "we" can do and onto what "they" can do. So "they" defend themselves while "we" forget to buy lower emission cars, recycle, and whatever. And overdosing on climate change for all its faults has made the problem bigger than any individual can fix.

Sure, I know for a fact that many manufacturers are willing to sit on emission controlling technologies (literally keeping them secret) to avoid sweeping regulations that occur at a faster pace than they can implement. But at the same time, most of those manufacturers are tied to defending their position because of pressures — price, profits, and employment — that those same regulating individuals benefit from. In other words, we're all in this together folks.

Messages make all the difference.

There have been a lot of clever and creative environmental messages since 1971, but few of them have become as iconic and legendary as the crying Indian or The Lorax. Ever wonder why?

The 1971 messages are stories that bind us together in the choices we make as individuals, with no distinction between producers and consumers or companies and people who litter. Both messages ask us to make a choice: which person do you want to be? The choice seems logical enough. Most of us want to be the solution instead of the problem.

Even the Lorax, though disgusted by the greed that came with the invention of the thneeds, left a last chance in the hands of the Once-ler, despite the Once-ler's responsibility for making the mess. The message, if you remember, is unless.

"No more trees. No more Thneeds. No more work to be done. So, in no time, my uncles and aunts, every one, all waved me good-bye. They jumped into my cars and drive away under the smoke-smuggered stars. Now all that was left 'neath the bad-smelling sky was my big empty factory ..."

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Thursday, May 7

Making Coal Cool: With Ringtones!

If there was any doubt that the coal industry was overreaching when it reportedly produced Frosty The Coalman for the holidays, then the follow up will clinch it. The West Virginia Coal Association has come up with ringtones for our phones.

Take your pick among six mixes — male choir, male voice choir, New Orleans, mountain, gospel, and bluegrass. My personal favorite is the bluegrass mix, even though it's a little longer than the rest. Some people have been posting the lyrics, but you really need to hear some for yourself.

Coal is West Virginia - Bluegrass Mix

Coal is West Virginia - Mountain Mix

"Coal is West Virgina
Coal is me and you
Coal is West Virgina
We got a job to do.

However, after Think Progress (via Spinthicket) lamented that the coal industry is taking "incredible pains to make coal seem 'clean,' 'affordable,' and even 'adorable,'" we're not sure which is worse: the ringtone idea or push back that suggests these ringtones might be taken as serious and worrisome propaganda.

Polarized issues seldom make sense. The facts are facts. According to Joe Schuster, who wrote a roadmap to energy independence by 2040, the United States gets 86 percent of its energy from fossil fuels: coal (23.2 percent), natural gas (23.9 percent) and oil (39.4 percent). The rest comes from nuclear (8.2 percent), hydropower (2.6 percent) and biomass and various other sources (3.3 percent). I've seen other numbers, of course, including that coal-fired power plants generate nearly 50 percent of our electricity.

Almost everybody agrees we need to adjust our energy usage. Not everybody agrees on how to do it or how fast to do it. Not everybody agrees that there is such a thing as clean coal technology. Of course there is, because clean coal is a generic term that means reducing the environmental impact of coal energy generation.

Compared to what we are doing now, it's all good. Existing energy consumption needs to be cleaned up the best it can be. Alternative fuel choices need to be integrated into the mix, smartly so, in order to avoid additional problems like windmills killing wildlife. But more important than any of that, the communication needs to be cleaned up because right now — between the sillyfication and vilification — it seems to be the most dangerous of all.

Wednesday, April 22

Embracing Earth Day:

As the sun was rising in the west, 88,000 blog posts focused on Earth Day were added to more than 2 million written this week. Almost 10 percent of them were written by bloggers at At 6 a.m., it was still early when I looked.

Earth Day By Individuals

Rebecca Leaman, writing for Wild Apricot, highlighted organizations that use Wild Apricot Web sites to help carry out earth-friendly missions to help establish a sustainable future.

Mary Ann Strain, C.P., who represents the "Passionists" at the United Nations in New York City, wrote about Chandrika Tiwari in Nepal and how climate change is impacting women, who she says make up 70 percent of the world’s poor. Even in the United States there is a discrepancy, she writes, 13.8 percent of women are poor compared to 11.1 percent of men.

"irtiza104," who is a student in Bangladesh, used his post on LIFE As I Know It to explore the meaning of Earth Day after admitting that he was "having a lot of trouble fully understanding the meaning of the Earth Day." He then goes on to list seven steps that could help the earth, ranging from curbing our reliance on plastic bags to planting more trees.

Doson, a BlogCatalog regular, chose to write an original poem called "The Blue Marble" on his blog, Inside Doson. "Time Thief," writing a few days ago to help promote the event, provided eco-friendly tips (such as riding an Optibike) on This Time - This Space. And Samantha, an artist who maintains Samantha's Art Studio, promoted reusable bags that can be purchased on Etsy.

Their voices will join millions more who are writing, blogging, and attending events in honor of Earth Day, which marks the beginning of The Green Generation Campaign, a two-year campaign that focuses on the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day in 2010. Some events are small. And others, are much larger.

Anti-Earth Day By Individuals

Of course, not everyone shares the same ideas about Earth Day. Alan Caruba, writing for the Canadian Free Press says "much of the foundation of the environmental movement is pure lies, mind boggling distortions of questionable 'science', and a thin veneer for the entire purpose of environmentalism, the imposing of a one-world agenda for the enrichment of a few who dream of a monopolistic control of the world’s resources and its human work force."

He's not alone. There are plenty of people who will write about that today. Or, perhaps, remind us how people haven't done enough in what is often billed as politics masquerading as planet friendliness.

Politics Or Promise?

Maybe it's because I grew up watching the acclaimed Keep America Beautiful PSA crying Indian commercial that launched on Earth Day in 1971 (The PSA won two Clio awards and the campaign was named one of the top 100 advertising campaigns of the 20th Century by Ad Age Magazine), but I like Earth Day.

Sure, I understand the politics and commercialization of it all. It's simple. People will be around to save the planet or they won't be.

At the end of the day, when you deduct all the fuss from the extreme, the net result is that Earth Day helps people pause for a minute or two and think about how we might do this or that a little better. Ergo, Iron Eyes Cody convinced me to promise to never litter again. It's a little thing. But a whole lot of little things add up to something big. There is nothing wrong with that.

"If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” — Wayne Dyer

Thursday, March 19

Understanding B2B Blogs: Case Abstract

While there is always plenty of buzz surrounding social media, an integrated approach to marketing and communication still works best to drive companies forward. And as long as companies understand that social media is a flexible tactical tool rather than replacement strategy, they will see results.

Despite substantial limitations, we recently completed a startup blog for a niche green-solution engineering company in about 90 days. The initial focus, after market analysis (listening), was to establish a blog capable of capturing the interest of clearly defined audiences: manufacturers and regulators in the short term; environmentalists over the long term.

Why blogs work as a niche B2B solution.

In as little as three months, visitation grew from 0 to 600 visitors per month (outpacing the company's Web site by as much as 4-to-1), with five subscribers and frequent return visitors. While that might seem insignificant for people who focus on traffic, traffic was inconsequential. What was important was that one weekly post succeeded in capturing interest from a very specific niche audience, with the medium length of every visit around five minutes.

We also knew they were the right audience based on analytics alone. In addition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, South Coast Air Quality Management District, State Of California Air Resources Board (among others), the majority of visitors included major engineering firms, manufacturers, food processors, and universities. As an additional footnote, the blog initiated direct contact with two environmental reporters and one congressman, specifically interested in EISA Section 471.

Based on the company's median contract rate, the program could eventually return as much as $50 to $1 hard return on investment with one contract and a significant return on communication (ROC), long term, assuming the company followed through on recommended integrated marketing tactics. There was also a high probability it would take a industry expert position in 180 to 240 days, given its area of expertise was an underserved and underreported niche within the engineering industry.

Specifically, their audience is searching the Web for content that nobody else was providing. At least, for now.

Blogs aren't ends unto themselves. They are beginnings.

Of course, blogs alone do not necessarily generate direct results. As noted, it takes an integrated approach.

Given that, in this case, the company could identify visiting companies, it could have looked up the most appropriate contacts, mailed informative value-driven marketing material, and then followed up with a introduction call. Even in cases where the material might not reach the exact visitor, the dual contact points could eventually inspire dialogue within the targeted prospect.

Specifically, by creating impressions with different people inside a targeted company, the communication will eventually converge as needs in this area arise. And, when combined with additional programs already in place (such as trade shows, workshops, and targeted advertising), a niche engineering subcontractor could easily become the focus based on the quality of its shared content, the frequency and diversification of its impressions, and the potential demand generated by the passage of green energy grants with the recent passage of the Stimulus Package.

Long term, the engineering company can still expand its social media program to social networks, with an emphasis on those based on monitoring and, more specifically, blog reader information. (Not always, but often, our readers ask us to join or try out specific social networks, groups, etc.) In other words, they could become the hub of the existing niche interest.

Early results demonstrate momentum, despite limitations.

What struck me as especially significant about this case was the steadily increasing interest despite severe limitations. Limitations included:

• An incomplete and fragmented Web site without coherent organization (which likely diminished the positive impressions created by the blog).
• The lack of a clear connection between the startup blog and Web site (e.g., a RSS feed or widget would have increased its site traffic by including the blog content on the site).
• The lack of time availability from the company's engineers, even though the commitment could have been as little as one post every three months from each, supported by related content in between, as outlined by the initial program plan (e.g. other than two contributions from myself, the most popular entries were written by the engineers).
• The missed opportunity in promoting trade shows attended where the company was an exhibitor (the point designer claimed they didn't have time to provide basic information, such as booth number).
• The undervaluation of how related content (e.g., how the fluctuation of natural gas prices indirectly increases the expense of a prospect's operations) by one party could position them as a solution-driven company, much like EISA Section 471 posts did.

Going forward, the company can address these limitations and better formalize its integrated marketing approach. The point here, however, isn't to focus in on these as deficiencies as much as it is to demonstrate that despite such limitations, the blog still managed to capture the interest of the desired audiences.

So, as long as company staff maintains the program until these areas are fixed, they still have a successful though slower growth rate program that has a high ability to capture organic traffic and niche audience interest. Further out, long term, the recommended path would be to build out into other social media areas based on niche audience participation.

Small companies sometimes underestimate marketing.

One of the reasons this was a short-term program was because of a common challenge among small companies. Often, they claim to become too busy to be concerned with marketing but not busy enough to sustain a marketing budget. Years ago, I was guilty of such deficient thinking myself. Nowadays, I know better. Marketing not only is a priority, it is the lifeblood of business. Without it, companies eventually fade away or fail outright.

Where social media is especially successful is it helps maximize B2B marketing efforts while reducing the overall budget. And even if it is not integrated, it can, at minimum, capture more interest than a static Web site because content adds value and connections increase engagement over time. It not only makes sense, it's common sense.

Tuesday, January 27

Balancing Acts: Real-Time Communication

An interesting, spontaneous, and live debate occurred between Shel Israel, co-author of Naked Conversations, and Scott Monty, a new media communications executive at Ford Motor Company, on Twitter, the popular real-time short messaging service, today.

The discussion began shortly after Israel pointed to a New York Times article. It provides an engaging look at real-time social media in action.

Here is a portion of it, minus background noise and side discussions.

Monty: Shel, the issue is a little more complex than you're making it.
Israel: Issues are always complicated until a solution simply emerges.
Monty: A single, nationalized standard is what's needed, not state-specific standards.
Israel: Ca welcomes other states to join our standard. The Ca standards 1st offered 12 yrs ago. What progress has Detroit made towae=rd compliance during that time? During that time what has Detroit spent to block or delay the standards during that time?
Monty: The entire auto industry - not just *Detroit* - is behind a single, national standard. You should familiarize yourself with what Ford is already doing (and plans to do) to meet fuel econ & emissions standards.
Israel: So then, you should have no problem with selling Fords everywhere that comply with the new Calif, emissions standard, right? Now ask that question of your customers.
Monty: This is just me speaking (not Ford): I think a single, high standard would be preferable to multiple standards. We're raising the fuel economy standard across every single vehicle we make - to best-in-class or among best-in-class.
Israel: How much $$ was spent by Detroit to oppose tougher emission standards. What would have happened if you had invested in R&D.
Monty: It's not just R&D Shel. It's the associated $ to retool entire plants.
Israel: You know, I've been sympathetic to Detroit, but if given a choice between sustaining Earth & Sustaining Ford Motors--sayonara.
Monty: Just goes to show me that you know next to nothing about our sustainability efforts. You should research before you tweet. (To others: Please check out some of our efforts in the green area. There's lots here
Israel: Golly, Scott. You don't sound like that when I take Ford's side. Why is it that I'm considered knowledgeable then & stupid now?
Monty: Because you did your research then.
Israel: My position requires little research Calif chooses strict emission standards. Ford can choose to comply or not. I do not argue that Ford is working on sustainability. But you are unwise to say that the Feds should prevent CAlif. standards.
Monty: I don't think the CA should be denied (again, Scott talking). If we use that as the single standard, great. Not multiple states
Israel: When Calif acted out of frustration, Detroit went to DC to stop us. There's been a recent change in policy.
Monty: If CA wants to spend its money to fight global warming, good luck. There are other important priorities at stake in the economy.
Israel (hours later): [Scott Monty] wants to point out the good efforts Ford has made and in fact, I believe that's true. But Detroit doesn't get to set the pace.
Monty: You're absolutely right. There's a new pace being set - but at the same time we need to operate within what's realistic now.
Israel: With all due respect, that's precisely what Detroit said to CA in 1997, when hearing were held in this state. CA is throwing down a Green Gauntlet. It's an easier challenge than Kennedy saying man would walk on the moon in 8 yrs. It's time to take the issue seriously for the sake of your kids & my grand children.
Monty: With all due respect, Shel - when did you become an automotive analyst? We've got no problem taking it seriously. We're moving faster than you know. ... But real business decisions need to be made for today as well as for tomorrow. It's a balance.
Israel (hours later): With all due respect, no expert on automotive but I do see an entrepreneurial opportunity when I see one. I'll be happy with any company that complies w/standards. I'll be at the Ford showroom the day you meet that standard. I'll even tweet your virtues.

What wasn't communicated that could have added value to the conversation?

California took the lead in setting the strictest auto emissions because it began taking steps to regulate emissions well before federal standards were set. In fact, California has been at this much longer than Israel gives the state credit. The California Legislature passed the Mulford-Carrell Act, which combined two Department of Health bureaus — the Bureau of Air Sanitation and the Motor Vehicle Pollution Control Board — to establish the Air Resources Board (ARB) in 1967. The ARB wasn't even California's first emission reduction effort.

However, California is also the leading polluter in the United States. In 2008, the American Lung Association's 2008 State of Air Report, California metropolitan areas account for five of the top ten most long-term particle polluted metros (with seven cities received a failing grade) and five of the top ten most ozone polluted metros (with twelve cities receiving a failing grade) in the U.S. The cause isn't automotive as much as it is lifestyle.

Of course, much like California, the automotive industry has a mixed record on environmental issues too. You can find an extensive, and reasonably brand neutral, account of the automobile and the environment by Martin V. Melosi right here. It doesn't take an automotive industry expert to deduce that fuel prices more than any other factor dictate what consumers will purchase.

When gas prices are high, like they were in the 1970s, consumers buy fuel-efficient cars. When gas prices are low, they buy SUVs. The American automotive industry tends to compete better in the latter market, although Ford does have 13 U.S. models that achieve 30 miles per gallon or better. The Ford Focus was named one of the top ten greenest cars in 2008.

The American automotive industry has made significant contributions in the development of green vehicles, sometimes at the expense of their own viability (and sometimes for the benefit of competitors). And sure, they've made mistakes too. But blaming the automotive industry for attempting one of the trickiest balancing acts in history seems disingenuous.

You see, I drove one of the earliest electric cars in the 1990s. The public didn't want them. The infrastructure wasn't in place to support them. They were creepy quiet to drive. And, while researching them, nobody could tell me what they planned to do with all the spent batteries. In fact, almost 20 years later, there is no real indication that any of this has changed en masse.

The bottom line is that we need solutions. However, considering we all contribute to the problem every day, those solutions will only come from shared accountability and consensus building. We need discussion over diatribe, the kind that has helped us realize substantial reductions since the 1960s.

Do real-time online conversations add value to communication or cause confusion?

It depends on the conversation and the participants. This one today, despite praise from observers, doesn't add much value.

To his credit, Monty delivered more communication than non-communication during the discussion, better than 2-to-1. In comparison, Israel delivered more non-communication than communication, almost 3-to-1. But this wasn't a boxing match.

Nobody wins, especially those who were listening.

Even with what little truth was alluded to, it's difficult to walk away with a real appreciation of this complex issue beyond polarized content. Simply put, Twitter was not a suitable platform for this discussion. Beyond that, maybe you can tell me.

Thursday, August 28

Seeing The Real Green: Modesto

Modesto, Calif. is located in Stanislaus County, an area that grows more than 250 commodities, anything and everything from apricots (called “cots” there) to walnuts. In fact, the $1.3 billion agriculture industry employs more than one-third of the population.

But rich farmland is only part of the story in Modesto. After the harvest, much of the produce is often shipped to canneries and processing centers, powered by boilers that are facing tightened emission regulations — particularly as they relate to nitrogen oxide (NOx) and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

That’s were I’ve been for the last few days, touring several processing centers and gathering base information for a special report. The report was commissioned by Benz Air Engineering, a company that evaluates power systems and then determines the best combination of new technologies and retrofits to reduce fuel consumption and emissions in the boiler room, which is the heart of any processing center.

What’s especially significant about the work done by Benz Air Engineering is that it allows these centers to maintain peak operations without overly expensive alternative energy solutions, the installation of new boilers, or the additional cost of emission penalties. All of which you and I would eventually pay for at the local grocery store, which is already experiencing double digit price jumps.

While the tour was an eye-opening crash course in mechanical engineering, there was something else that stood out to me. Most public relations and communication professionals aren’t prepared to communicate green, which is why some programs eventually fall flat. Sure, General Motors seems to be doing an adequate job, but green communication requires something more than slapping a green or blue sticker on a company Web site.

The future of green communication is going to require communicators to get their hands dirty at the source while remembering that multiple publics depend on different communication strategies to stay moving in the same direction. As it stands now, I no longer sure the general public knows what it means to be green or that their efforts to preserve the planet might adversely affect the very industry that seems to epitomize green in their minds.

Maybe it's time to forget fancy ideas for now — like Steron’s marketing snafu that overshot on the concept of free energy or cars that run on veggies — and think in terms of what might work with today’s infrastructure. According to Benz Air Engineering, the solution is simple. Increasing plant efficiency will dramatically reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. How much?

Just one of their retrofits reduced the nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions of one boiler from 30 parts per million to 6 parts per million. And, because the boiler is operating more efficiently and burning less fuel while delivering the same output, CO2 was reduced 20 percent. What does that mean? Maybe it means that the backbone of American manufacturing and processing isn’t exclusively reliant on alternative fuels or the increased production of natural resources. Maybe we just need to make more efficient use of the energy we have on hand.

By doing that, it seems to me, plants could not only appreciate an immediate cost savings and financial payback in less than two years, but the overall cost of fossil fuels might level or drop in the short term as the result of diminished demand. At the same time, we all benefit from a greener planet without placing additional hardships on farmers.

In other words, we might not need to polarize environmental communication in the presidential debates between John McCain and Barack Obama. Maybe, we just need to be more efficient with our energy and our communication about it.


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