Communicating a big energy project for all stakeholders

Power-generating wind turbines on Ngong Hills. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Energy projects involve a number of stakeholders, including the government, private sector, civil society, and communities holding various interests.

An identified barrier to the widespread adoption of an energy project is the lack of understanding in the public, at a political level and within the industry about the benefits, opportunities and capabilities of the project.

This comes to how the information is communicated, and whether a justification for the project is made effectively.

Before relaying information on the project, a communication strategy must be developed.

A good strategy outlines key components, starting with a justification, the target audience, the communication channels and the feedback methods. Implementation and execution planning has to be included as part of the strategy.

Justifying a project is an attempt to explain why the particular energy project needs to be implemented as a solution to a problem and how it can be implemented.

In justification, the communicator must identify the problem, the need for the implementation of the proposed project must be outlined to ensure recipients appreciate the investment.

The advantages or benefits need to be outlined. In the case of a renewable energy, these may include lowering power costs and reducing pollution.

A link can be established between the proposed project and the support for such worldwide. This helps to increase its credibility. For example, there has been a push for sustainable energy and a need to reduce global warming, especially from fossil fuels.

The target audience should be able to appreciate the importance of the project in promoting such agenda.

The goals and objectives should be well spelt out to ensure they focus on specific ideas and end goals, to further justify the project and promote its acceptance.

Facts of the project must be well understood by the communication team that lays the basis for initiating discussions.

Facts must cover the implementation method, duration, risks and compliance mechanisms among others.

It is imperative to have comprehensive appreciation of the regulatory framework to which the project is subject.

This includes laws and regulations such as those imposed by the National Environment Management Authority (Nema). Understanding both the facts of the project and the regulatory framework helps in authenticating the project, leading to trust.

In determining the target audience, pre-campaign research can be used to align public attitude. This also determines the manner in which the justification for the project will be made, depending on the recipients as it is important to tailor the information to suit particular recipient.

With regard to feedback methods on evaluating the effectiveness of the communication, an audit can be used to assess the effectiveness and reliability of the communication methods.

The target audience can be asked whether it receives the right information.

Ms Bonita is a communication consultant, Commken Afrique Ltd.

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