A Proposed Communication Plan for the Philippine Nuclear Energy Program
- Sep 23, 2020 11:36 am GMT
by Mark Gino Aliperio
Communication planning, according to Helen Ostrowski, is about creating a more favorable environment in which an organization’s idea, service or issue can take seed and flourish and where measurable progress can be seen. It is basically designed to help the organization communicate effectively and meet its objectives. In this article, two surveys conducted by the Inter-Agency Core Group aimed to gauge public perception, awareness, and apprehension regarding nuclear energy utilization were analyzed. Then, a strategic communication plan is specifically developed for the Philippines based from the results of the surveys, which can be used by the implementing authorities to gain public awareness and acceptance on nuclear energy, helping the country fulfill its endeavor of creating an enabling environment towards viable and sustainable development through energy security.
To know more about the background and history of the Philippine nuclear energy program, kindly refer to my previous article (link provided below).
In 2010, the Inter-Agency Core Group, led by the Philippine Department of Energy, the Department of Science and Technology, and the National Power Corporation, conducted a public perception survey to gauge the public’s appreciation of, as well as apprehensions towards, nuclear energy. This was part of an overall information and education campaign mandated by the Philippine Energy Plan 2009-2030.
The results of the survey indicated that there was a largely positive view with regard to the use of nuclear energy in the Philippines. These favorable views towards nuclear power generation were attributed to the escalating electricity rates during the period. The survey also surfaced the need to further improve the public’s perception of the application of nuclear energy by highlighting the benefits of nuclear power plants, and by focusing on the safety requirements/ guidelines and management of nuclear power plants.
In 2011, the nationwide Household Energy Consumption Survey, for the first time, included questions related to nuclear power. The survey aimed at determining awareness and perception of households on major energy issues, including nuclear energy, surfaced the following:
- Regardless of whether a household is aware or unaware of nuclear energy, one in every three households expressed their willingness to support nuclear energy as a viable and long-term option for electricity generation. Almost half of the total households (47%) remained undecided on the question of harnessing nuclear energy.
- On the other hand, the bulk of households (79 percent) that belonged to the highest income group were cognizant about nuclear energy and its uses. However, the proportion of households with knowledge about this particular energy source dropped to 22.3 percent at the lowest income group.
- The National Capital Region (NCR) was the only region where at least half of the total household population was aware of nuclear energy, while the rest of the regions registered lower percentages.
- The results imply that income had a positive effect on a household’s awareness of nuclear energy – since households with higher income tended to have more access to various sources of information about nuclear energy, such as those obtained online and from the internet.
- Awareness: The initial stage is making people aware on the issue of nuclear energy and why it matters. By raising awareness among key audiences, the groundwork for long-term change is laid.
- Champions/Supporters: Cultivating champions or supporters builds upon awareness to be strategic advocates for nuclear energy. It is aimed to identify and convince key individuals to fight for the cause and win over others.
- Public Will: It gives an issue a sense of urgency and makes change happen. It is what ensures that the issue grows in prominence and action is taken.
- Policy Change: The ultimate goal and the most difficult one to reach. It can be attained, but typically not without the previous steps.
- Awareness: As with a policy goal, the aim is to make the audience aware of nuclear energy and why it matters. This is the first step in changing attitudes and behavior. Awareness is especially crucial when the audience has never heard about nuclear energy, or if the key messages conflict with the audience’s currently held beliefs.
- Salience: It’s not always enough for the audience to be aware of nuclear energy. They have to believe in its importance.
- Attitudes/Beliefs: When the efforts to build awareness and salience are succeeding, changing the way the audience’s views on nuclear energy can start.
- Behavior Change: When people start behaving differently, the goal is reached.
PROPOSED COMMUNICATION PLAN
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION
Regaining public trust is a prerequisite for a successful energy program. On the one hand, educating the stakeholders, whether the general public, NGOs or other involved parties, not just on the benefits of nuclear technologies, but also in the many ways that technology has progressed. Aside from that, countering the anti-nuclear activists are crucial to shrug-off misperceptions that they may cause, and to implement nuclear energy policy without any hindrances.
Developing a smart communication plan is an essential first step. But without a thoughtful evaluation strategy, there is no way of knowing if your plan is working or whether you need to make adjustments. Knowing the effect of communication activities and fine-tuning those areas that need improvement will help reach the outcomes sought. Baseline research conducted at the beginning of the action will help understand the audiences’ priorities and values; and throughout implementation, it can help find ways to gather feedback from audiences and learn how they are responding to the messages.
Communication also needs to be shaped to each audience in order to send the message effectively. It is important to consider the basic demographic information of the audience (government officials, religious groups, private sectors, experts, media, general public, etc.) and how the message will affect them. Another important factor in any communication plan is the channel where there should be as many options available to communicate, depending on how you want the audience to connect with the message. These include media advertising as well as organizing location-based and stakeholder-based campaigns, events, and activities, employing intra-personal approaches; as people tend to remember information if they received it in various forms.
In many ways, the Philippines has been struggling to communicate with key stakeholders for the establishment of a nuclear power program. The trust in the state needs to be affirmed and has to be earned. With the suggested communication plan, it is hopes that the Philippines will be successful in this field of endeavor.
This proposed communication plan for the Philippine nuclear energy program has been developed in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the course EA201 Stakeholder Management and Public Acceptance.
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