Transparency and Proactive Outreach in Good Nuclear Energy Communications

By Mimi Limbach

Yesterday, a panel of three terrific communicators shared their insights and best practices at the American Nuclear Society 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.
  • Continuously build community and policy maker 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. In addition, 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. As with Southern Company above, Westinghouse has reached out to critics as well.

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. In addition, 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.

Panelists (left to right): Todd Terrell, Vaughn Gilbert, Mimi Limbach and Amy Lientz

Panelists (left to right): Todd Terrell, Vaughn Gilbert, Mimi Limbach, and Amy Lientz

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Mimi Limbach is managing partner at Potomac Communications Group

2 thoughts on “Transparency and Proactive Outreach in Good Nuclear Energy Communications

  1. Denis Beller

    These PR/PI sessions continue to be some of the most highly attended and liveliest “technical” sessions at every ANS meeting I’ve attended for years. One I hosted included nuclear columnists from the NY Times and the Washington Post. The audience, which I believe was the largest I’d ever seen at any ANS meeting (excluding opening plenaries), learned a lot about what they do and don’t do (e.g. they don’t write headlines, editors do that). Yet these sessions continue to require submission by a technical division (ETWDD in this case). Maybe it’s time to start a Nuclear Communications Working Group that can transition to a Nuclear Communications Division.

    No, I’m not volunteering.

  2. Ed Knuckles

    I took away some excellent communication techniques this afternoon. This session was by far the most valuable to me personally. Thank you ANS!

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