Let the dialogue commence…

by | Sep 1, 2009

I take it all back. Within moments of publishing the post below about the naked protestors at Edelman, not one but two Edelman employees were in touch via Twitter, pointing me to a blog post by their CEO. Full marks for new media nimbleness. So what do they actually say?  Well, their main point is that

As with last time, we offered the protestors the chance to sit down (preferably, fully clothed) and engage in a constructive dialogue with us. We are happy to hear their concerns and discuss their issues. Sadly, they seem more intent on going for the headline, picture story and the sound-bite, rather than for a constructive and engaged conversation.

Now of course, it’s an entirely sensible comms strategy for Edelman to let everyone know that they tried to have a dialogue, but were snubbed by the protestors.  It positions them as the magnanimous, reasonable, centrist party, while the protestors are made to appear rather fringe by comparison.  The point is reinforced in the post’s last paragraph, which talks of the need for “engaged dialogue among multiple stakeholders, including the NGO community”, while accusing the protestors of “cheap stunts”.

But wanting to be seen to be open to dialogue isn’t the same as being open to dialogue.

The protestors would doubtless reply to Edelman’s entreaties by pointing out that Edelman work with E.On – the power company that owns Kingsnorth – not (as their CEO’s blog post implies) because Edelman is impressed with E.On’s arguments that “in order to reduce our carbon emissions, keep energy affordable and keep the lights on, we need a balanced energy policy that includes renewables, nuclear and cleaner fossil fuels”, but instead for the rather more earthy reason that E.On pay them a healthy monthly retainer.

Now, I’m willing to give Edelman the benefit of the doubt here (they are after all involved in the admirable Citizen Renaissance project), but presumably not everyone will be so generous.  So how can Edelman win over the sceptics?

Quite easily, actually.  For Edelman to prove beyond dispute that they are themselves genuinely open to “engaged dialogue” –  in their own right, rather than just as a mouthpiece for E.On – all they need do, surely, is point to an example of an area in which they have a substantive disagreement on climate policy with E.On.

Perhaps in the comments section below?


  • Alex Evans

    Alex Evans is founder of the Collective Psychology Project, which explores how we can use psychology to reduce political tribalism and polarisation, a senior fellow at New York University, and author of The Myth Gap: What Happens When Evidence and Arguments Aren’t Enough? (Penguin, 2017). He is a former Campaign Director of the 50 million member global citizen’s movement Avaaz, special adviser to two UK Cabinet Ministers, climate expert in the UN Secretary-General’s office, and was Research Director for the Business Commission on Sustainable Development. He was part of Ethiopia’s delegation to the Paris climate summit and has consulted for Oxfam, WWF UK, the UK Cabinet Office and US State Department. Alex lives with his wife and two children in Yorkshire.

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