The solid reception to our talk at the 2019 Offshore Wind Conference inspired us to stay focused on the topic of best practices for offshore wind developers in their community engagement efforts. We followed the talk with the first analysis of current and recommended practices: “Why Steer Into Rough Seas? Helping Help Offshore Wind Avoid Community Acceptance Problems.”
In compiling that analysis, we sought the views of people who were doing the work at different companies. It became clear very quickly that we needed to show off their thinking and work in an interview series, just as we did for onshore wind companies’ community engagement heads.
These folks didn’t disappoint. We’re continuing the interview series with Jessica Dealy, the External affairs lead for Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind. Jessica is a Mississippian now working in New York City. Her compelling background combines wind farm analytics, meteorology and on-air television news. We thought her varied background made her the ideal lead-off interview for the series.
Here are Jessica’s big three points, (what we call the “B3Ps”) from our conversation:
1. Don’t assume local community members know the basics. Offshore wind is still relatively new to the US markets compared to other renewables, so educating local communities on the basics is important for winning them over - you must go in understanding they don't know anything.
- “[Offshore wind’s] brand new to a lot of people. A lot of people are going to have concerns and questions. I think listening to them and trying to address them to the best of your ability is the most important thing that I've learned, instead of going into a room and thinking you have all the answers.”
2. Solve for the flow of content that competes for community members’ attention. Stay informed of the competition so that you're able to better differentiate yourself and your project and not overlap. Jessica cites "stakeholder fatigue," where stakeholders are inundated by project pitches and lose interest in all of them.
- “Be aware of what everybody is doing in [offshore wind]. It doesn't make sense for developers to go in and act as if they're the only ones trying to do this and act as if they're the only ones trying to reach out to different stakeholder groups.”
3. Incorporate local talent into your program. Hiring local talent and engaging with engaging community leaders is critical to selling the offshore wind project to the community. Without local talent and stakeholders, you're essentially just another outsider trying to mess up their ocean view.
- “We really figured out how to inject ourselves into the community naturally, like we've always been there to show that we really care about who's who in their town, in their county, in their township. I think using as much local talent as possible is important.”