The last couple weeks have been good for the LEC, highlighted by the approval of a new Secretary of the Interior and EPA Administrator.

In other news, Tyler arranged for he and I to give a presentation to the University of North Dakota’s Energy Law Association.  (This group is led by Senator Jessica Unruh’s sister.) We gave them a good overview of the industry, policy priorities and of course legal issues.

We continued to dig in a little deeper into our public affairs outreach and visited the Mandan City Council, the morning and evening meetings of the Williston Chamber of Commerce and I had an hour long interview with E&E News.  We also met with the Petroleum Council, which is refreshing its public affairs program (North Dakota Oil Can) much like we did with PAE several years ago.  They read us into their polling data and strategy, and we identified a few areas of overlap where we can coordinate.  I also met separately with Conoco on some of their communications efforts while Mike is working with DOE and the EERC on a study regarding the regional impacts of different energy policy scenarios.

In what was described to me as “a slow news day”, KFYR asked me to lead off their 6:00 p.m. news one evening and just talk about the coal industry and our response to President Trump’s “not-really-state-of-the-union” speech.  But their slow news day was our gain, and gave me a longer than average opportunity to just hit our message in front of a large TV audience.

We had our semi-monthly meeting of the Public Affairs Committee, which we try to have once a month during the legislative sessions to cross-pollinate our public affairs and government relations efforts.

After the legislative crossover, we regained our stride and once again started regular appearances at the Capitol.  A small group of us met with Al Carlson last week, who asked us what he could do to “save the coal industry”.  He has expressed interest on a few occasions about looking beyond R&D, and our challenge is giving him a good answer that doesn’t undercut our main thrust for R&D and demonstration funding or unnecessarily create conflict.  His heart is in the right place, but its put us in a difficult situation when he asks us to support creating a “coal portfolio standard” and refuse to allow wind to access the transmission system.  Our Government Relations Committee is working on how to best respond to his requests, (We had a special call about this today and will follow up again later this week) but this is important enough that I wanted to make sure you all knew about it.  We’ll have a more specific update in a couple days and the goal is to give him an answer that is thoroughly vetted through our Government Relations Committee and our Board.

We hosted our quarterly meetings with the Department of Health and the PSC and discussed the potential transition into a stand-alone DEQ and the progress of the PSC’s work on regulating coal combustion byproducts, the next round of regional haze and CO2 rules.  Of note is that the Department of Health wants to have another series of meetings about regulating CO2—essentially proactively creating its own Clean Power Plan as a preemptive strike against the EPA’s future attempts to regulate CO2.  We will make sure our Task Force is tracking this and providing input.

Just a few quick examples of our integration of polling knowledge and increased online activity, we had some successful mini campaigns as we attempt to constantly improve our messaging and advocacy efforts, and how much we can control the granularity of these activities.

The day President Trump gave his state of the nation, we put up a quick promotion on Twitter asking people to guess the time that he first said the word “coal”, which he did at 9:18.  This promotion was a national promotion—we were just getting people to engage and have some fun.  We got some different debates going online—some negative but mostly positive—but the negative comments were then rebutted organically by coal allies.

In contrast, for #InternationalWomensDay we took a different approach.  Our polling has told us that women are less supportive of the coal industry than men, and the difference widens as age decreases.  So, we created a campaign based off Prairie Business Magazine’s Top 25 Women In Business issue (Congratulations to LEC Board Members Nicole Kivisto and Sandi Tabor).  The campaign had multiple angles.  We raised the awareness that the LEC, a typically male-dominated industry, has female board members, which is just a subtle correction to the conventional wisdom about mining companies.  However, the Top 25 Women In Business also included several women who work at LEC member companies but are not Board members. We also created campaigns around them, saying something like, “Congratulations to Jane Doe, who works at LEC member Business, Inc.  She was just named to Prairie Business Magazine’s Top 25 Women in Business list”, and then we include the profile from the magazine.

Here’s where it then gets interesting.  We can fine tune our advertising down to the last detail.  On most of these, we set an ad campaign that would go to the Twitter “followers” of the company where the person worked as well as to general LEC interest groups. In practice then, it works like this.  Jane Doe works at Business Inc.  Jane has 200 Twitter followers of her own, while Business, Inc. has 2000 followers.  We create a campaign that splits “advertising views” between females and males about 65%-35%, since females are our weakest demographic.  We further dial in the campaign to heavily target those 2000 followers of Business, Inc. and the 200 personal followers Jane has.   That way, the LEC Member Company sees the award and their employee being highlighted by the LEC, but it is more likely to be “retweeted” and otherwise spread organically.

I apologize for the length of the explanation, but its just an illustration of the versatility new technologies offer.  We are really going to focus on this in our Social Media workshop on the second day of the Annual Meeting, and I will be sending additional reminders and examples as the date gets nearer. If possible, please encourage someone from your Communications team to attend.

Please stay tuned and expect additional updates regarding our legislative team and Al Carlson’s request.  We are trying to avoid any conflicts that may arise while taking advantage of the request to help the coal industry in ways not directly tied to R&D.