Wednesday, June 19, 2013

From left to right, panelists Todd Terrell,
Vaughn Gilbert, Mimi Limbach and Amy Lientz
Yesterday, a panel of three terrific communicators shared their insights and best practices at the American Nuclear Society (ANS) Annual Meeting in Atlanta. I was privileged to be the moderator for the Communicating for New Nuclear Facilities session. Their unanimous advice – be as transparent as you can about your organization’s plans and operations. Don’t hesitate to reach out to critics. Keep all of your stakeholders apprised of what you’re doing. And continuously build community and policymaker support.

Nuclear Development Communications Director Todd Terrell discussed the extensive outreach that Southern Company conducts on a routine basis, along with the important role that the employee speakers’ bureau plays in its outreach. And he spoke about the degree to which the company works to be transparent, including holding periodic meetings with critics whose agendas  include environmental, nuclear and policy issues. 

Westinghouse External Communications Director Vaughn Gilbert shared the company’s excellent new broadcast commercial, which soon will be shown in a variety of venues including Washington, D.C. He described the company’s decision to focus on stakeholders outside the nuclear energy industry whose support will be important to the industry’s future success. And Westinghouse, too, has reached out to critics.

Amy Lientz, director of communications and government relations for the Idaho National Lab (INL), described the challenges the Lab faces in modernizing critical aging facilities and building new ones in an era of tight budgets, sequestration and continuing resolutions from Congress. The INL, too, works for transparent communications, while recognizing that some actions – for example, those involving individual personnel matters – must remain private.  And she recognized the unique challenges of timely communications from government entities. 

ANS members engaged all three panelists in a lively discussion. And the audience learned that communications best practices apply to very different kinds of organizations.

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