Triumph of the Real: The Challenge of Overcoming Alternative Fact

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These days, the truth has some competition: alternative facts, fake news, and the full-throated denial of reality, for starters. But while this type of spin is enjoying a Renaissance at the highest levels of government, the reality is, blatant “spin” has always been an element of American marketing. Think: filtered cigarettes are “just what the doctor ordered.”

But alternative facts present a challenge for policy advocates, since serious policy is better based on reality than fiction. At Summers Strategies, we work with advocates on communications and messaging on a number of issues where alternative facts proliferate, including renewable energy, climate change, energy efficiency and the clean-energy economy.

Most recently, we worked with a coalition of renewable energy supporters to assemble simultaneous press conferences and rallies in northern and southern Nevada. We didn’t dispel every myth about clean energy in one day, but we made some meaningful headway. We swept the print and electronic media across the state, reaching hundreds of thousands of Nevadans with the message that clean energy creates good jobs and protects our outdoors – a no brainer in a state like Nevada where the sun is almost always shining.

 What elements made this a successful event?

 •  We had newsmakers. About a dozen state legislators joined the event in our capital of Carson City and Congresswoman Dina Titus even joined us in Las Vegas. 

 •  We had news. Reporters attend news conferences because they expect to leave with news or context. We timed this press conference and rally to coincide with the introduction of several clean energy bills, so the community, the legislators and the media were primed and interested in what we had to say. Timing is everything, and our coalition spent a lot of time talking about timing for this event. That paid off. 

 •  We had visuals. About 150 people, most carrying signs, provided the great visuals print and TV reporters need to tell their stories.

 •  Our message was clear and concise. We knew what we wanted people to take away from these events and centered everything from talking points to visuals on that clear message.

 We were successful at driving a clear message that day, but to win a sustained policy fight like the one around clean energy, we know we’ll need that kind of strategic thinking and effective messaging – and to win the day – every day.

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