Building Clean Energy in the Hudson Valley – Communications Product Analysis

The example below highlights some best practices in climate communications. Recommendations are posted in the side-bar for easy reference. Click here to view the full PDF. You can read additional analysis below the displayed product.

Product Analysis

How this product showcases the recommendations:

1. Leading with politically neutral messages about conserving resources people already care about.

The authors open with a direct invitation to readers to be a part of something consequential. Rather than say, “Scenic Hudson is fighting climate change…” they say, “We can fight climate change..”, and in doing so, distinguish the Hudson Valley as a model for other regions, and a source of “new jobs, affordable energy, and healthier, stronger communities.” These are values anyone can get behind, and are thus likely to motivate different kinds of people to act.

The next paragraph contextualizes the renewable energy initiative within the land trust’s core mission by emphasizing the importance of responsible siting to preserve the Hudson’s “priceless natural resources, scenic views and historic sites.” It is a message that communicates a dedication to shared resources, and a desire to balance different needs.

2. Finding trusted spokespeople to deliver your messages.

There are no individuals quoted on the page, but the authors reference the goal set by New York State agencies to source 50 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2030 as a shared standard. The message is that residents of New York all have a stake in this goal and can play a role in achieving it.

At the end of the page, readers are provided with list of resources on renewable energy siting that have resulted from two recent forums. The Solar Smart Hudson Valley Symposium hosted by Scenic Hudson in 2018, and the Renewables on the Ground Roundtable in 2017, led by the Alliance for Clean Energy New York and The Nature Conservancy, which we learn brought together a range of different stakeholders including land use planners, environmental organizations, conservationists, renewable energy developers, agricultural interests, utilities, regulators, and government officials. Presumably, readers would be able to identify with one of these stakeholder groups, and feel that their interests were represented at these forums, and in the resulting materials.

3. Focusing on local climate change impacts and responses, rather than on the causes.

The authors neatly connect the dots between the assets of the Hudson Valley (“a great place to live and work”), the threat from climate change (“changing temperatures, shifting weather patterns, sea-level rise along the Hudson’s shoreline”), and how renewable energy will help mitigate impacts and bolster community assets. We learn that transitioning the energy supply away from large fossil-fuel power plants that rely on long-distance transmission, to a central energy grid fed by locally generated power, will not only mitigate climate change, but create jobs and local control over energy prices. The authors also provide supplementary fact sheets for those interested in specific climate impacts and siting considerations.

4. Avoiding technical jargon, instead using language that can be understood by anyone.

Throughout the web page, the authors present information on renewable energy that avoids jargon and hyperbole, and focuses on a theme of protecting natural and economic resources from climate change. While there is undoubtedly a depth of research behind this content — just see the accompanying downloadable guide — the authors distill the technical guidance into accessible language. For example, they have a set of principles for renewable siting that is worded to address potential concerns about these projects: “prioritize development on previously disturbed areas”, “protect natural beauty”, and “avoid and minimize new transmission and distribution lines”.

5. Selecting photos that bring your messages to life.

Actions: There is just one image at the top on the web page, but it perfectly captures the principles of responsible renewable energy siting that Scenic Hudson is trying to promote. The photo shows a set of solar panels in the foreground, positioned next to a vast field of flowers, and in the distance, the roof of a home peeks out beyond the field. This image shows that renewable energy doesn’t have to be an imposition on private property, and that it can be compatible with other efforts to support natural resources, like providing habitat for pollinators.

What could be improved? The web page could use some of the images and visual accents featured in the accompanying downloadable guide to break up the text. It would also be nice to hear from a local official, community leader, or resident who can speak to the tangible benefits of renewable energy and help strengthen the case for this initiative.

Read more about the context of this product in an interview with Audrey Friedrichsen, Land Use and Environmental Advocacy Attorney for Scenic Hudson here.