Energize West Virginia with Natural Gas: The Unified Voice of the Industry
Kim Lawrence, Executive Director
Six years ago, research indicated that people in West Virginia knew very little about our natural gas industry. Today, it would be difficult to find any West Virginian that didn't have some knowledge about natural gas, "fracking," and the Marcellus Shale. Indeed, natural gas has become a dynamic voice in the state dialogue about shaping our energy future.
In an effort to communicate the amazing potential of this fossil fuel, Energize West Virginia with Natural Gas was formed in 2006 and has emerged as the unified voice of the natural gas industry. This non-profit alliance, guided by an outstanding board of directors and led by President Lloyd Jackson, is regarded as the definitive source for information about the natural gas industry.
Gathering information about public perceptions and needs was critical to launching an effective program. Energize West Virginia began its work by conducting both qualitative and quantitative research. A series of focus groups gave us the groundwork to begin a campaign to inform and educate. By researching in every media market in the state, we were able to learn more about the way people viewed the natural gas industry and develop a powerful communications strategy.
When our work first began, Energize West Virginia launched an aggressive community relations project that included press events, billboards, newspaper advertisements, news articles and a statewide radio campaign that featured our industry spokesperson - Hollywood actor and WV native John Corbett. We also unveiled an Energize WV website with all the latest information about the industry. Since then, we developed a mobile site and a strong presence in social media. The Energize WV Twitter account is now followed by media, industry experts and decision makers and is regarded as one of the top sources for natural gas news and information.
As we grew, we learned that an energy education program for young people would be a critical component in moving the industry forward. We partnered with a non-profit teacher training organization and developed a series of lesson plans that would engage and motivate young people to consider careers in the industry. This outstanding program was recognized nationally by the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission as the best energy education program in the country.
Last year, Energize West Virginia joined forces with ANGA - America's Natural Gas Alliance - to further engage in grassroots communication efforts. Through this partnership, we have traveled the state conducting town hall meetings to give the public an opportunity to learn more about developments in the Marcellus Shale. In addition to sharing vital information, our town hall meeting format allows people to ask questions of industry experts and engage in an open dialogue about ways in which the industry works to protect the environment.
In conjunction with our grassroots mobilization, Energize West Virginia and ANGA developed a campaign called "Marcellus. Good for Us" that focused on promoting the benefits of drilling in the Marcellus Shale. This nationally-recognized campaign includes outdoor boards, yard signs, collateral materials and tradeshow displays.
Over the past six years, we have continued to conduct research that has enabled us to focus with laser-like precision on our most effective messages. We have discovered that the more people know and learn about our industry, the more likely they are to support our efforts.
Our research component has given Energize West Virginia with Natural Gas a powerful base from which to communicate. Natural gas has a bright future and Energize West Virginia will continue to be the relevant voice for our industry.