Rule #1 in any communications effort is to "get the audience's attention". Rule #2 is to do whatever is necessary to keep it – even "spin" or enhance half-truths. Rule #3 in any campaign is to elicit an emotional response from that audience.
The many facets of the environmental movement, food safety advocates and animal rights groups have well-trained, highly motivated people on the job. In American Agriculturist, we've shared examples of the Humane Society of the United States and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Here's an example of the strategies, tenacity and appeal that agriculture must deal with from another expert media manipulator. Fortunately, this one from a Environmental Defense Fund subsidiary didn't directly target agriculture.
The following email attack took aim at American Electric Power, you know, one of those "evil" giant utility companies spewing coal smog into the air we breathe and pushing a "dirty air" bill on Congress – for its already outrageous profits. [Please excuse the exaggeration.]
Fight for clean air
"Just a quick update on our "What's Your Number?" campaign against America's #1 polluter, AEP.
"Yesterday, on a brilliant summer day in front of AEP's headquarters in downtown Columbus, OH, about 50 clean air advocates helped deliver 50,000 petition signatures to AEP urging them to drop their outrageous dirty air bill, which would block clean air standards and cause up to 17,000 premature deaths every year.
"Over the last few weeks, we have been organizing similar visibility events. And we've been running billboard ads in Columbus, including one right across the street from AEP's headquarters. We've also been airing this hard-hitting TV in Columbus as well as in a few national media outlets.
"Help us keep our ads on the air and keep up our grassroots pressure on the ground, Donate today!
- Every $25 will help keep our billboard ad up another 7 hours.
- Every $75 will help keep our billboard ad up another day.
- Every $250 will help run our TV ad one more time in the Columbus media market.
"While we turn up the heat on AEP in Columbus, we are also busy back in Washington supporting EPA's tough, life-saving clean air standards and pushing back against the most anti-environment Congress in memory.
"Still, for every step forward, the polluter allies in Congress take us a step or two – or 30 – back. This week, two committees of the U.S. House of Representatives passed a smorgasbord of more than 30 polluter friendly, anti-environmental measures.
"They just don't get it! Smart but tough air pollution standards not only save lives and clean up our environment, but they produce hundreds of billions of dollars in net economic benefits to our country – from improving efficiency to advancing innovation to increasing worker productivity.
"We can't let narrow-interest ideology trump common sense and we can't let big polluters like AEP promote their short-term polluter profits over our right to breathe air that won't kill us.
"Make a donation today to help us keep up the pressure."
These groups use mass petition drives with signatures of largely gullible people who agree we need clean air, but have no idea of the cost impact of still more regulation.
Their heart-grabbing video [pictured below] was of a little girl on an oxygen mask and a lung-compression machine. And, of course, the evil coal-fired power plants were blamed for it.
Oh, and to make sure you don't miss their bottom line message, here it is again: "Make a donation today to help us keep up the pressure."
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This is why U.S. industries build plants and employ more workers in other countries. This is why unemployment remains at disastrously high levels.