Are we winning or losing the latest public opinion battle for Marcellus Shale?

October 31, 2011

The facts are on industry’s side, but emotion is what all too often fuels the public’s opinion about American energy.

America’s most important new source of domestic, clean energy is a massive geographic structure that lies 9,000 feet below West Virginia, western Pennsylvania and New York. The Marcellus promises to transform America’s energy future by providing an estimated 100 years of cleaner energy as well as countless U.S.-based jobs.

At a meeting this week in Houston comprised of leading public affairs professionals drawn from the nation’s top natural gas companies, I was fortunate enough as President of Gregory FCA, Pennsylvania’s largest public relations firm, to share with the group new public opinion research that showed the current state of public opinion with regard to the Marcellus, as well as provided a road map for better communicating the benefits of Marcellus Shale development for the region and our country.

A couple of key takeaways from my talk included:

  • Even though there are a number of major shale plays in regions throughout the country, Marcellus dominates the current national conversation, generating more than half of all traditional and social media reporting and chatter on the topic.
  • Surprisingly, pubic sentiment with regard to Marcellus Shale is more positive in social media than traditional media, a counterintuitive set of circumstances, considering the advantage most grassroots advocacy groups hold in their knowledge and capabilities in the social sphere.
  • While the industry has done a tremendous job in arguing a fact-based case, emotion is equally important to winning the hearts and souls of the American public.
  • By embedding emotional messages in unexpected places, the industry can seed its message among the very stakeholders it seeks to influence.
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