As PR professionals, we all dread that moment in our careers when a questionable campaign lands on our desk ~ the age-old ethical dilemma. What to do? What to do?
Let’s hope something called Clean Coal will be enough of an oxymoron to slap you in the face and send your tail spinning in the opposite direction. The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity’s $35-million dollar PR campaign is one such unscrupulous beast. It’s this kind of PR that gives our business a bad name. The ad campaign promotes the use of coal energy as American, affordable and the way of the future. Call it spin, call it astroturfing, it’s unethical.
The messaging in this ad campaign is powerful and delivered in such a way that it comes at you like a round of bullets with the repetition of such phrases as “I believe” and “we will do this.” You’re so stunned by it that you have no choice but to pay attention. Very clever but utterly amoral and even a little scary. The imagery is also very cleverly done with stills of people from all walks of life each with a line to say like, “I believe in the future… I believe in protecting the environment… I believe in technology… I believe we can limit greenhouse gases…” (I believe you’re having me on. Don’t forget. They’re talking about coal.) But the piece de resistance is the tagline: “Clean Coal ~ America’s power.” Cunning double entendre.
But what does the coalition for Clean Coal have to say about the eco-disaster that happened in Tennessee on December 22? Over 500 million gallons of toxic sludge from a coal burning power plant burst through the retaining wall and into the water system, destroying houses and forcing residents to evacuate. I’d say the ACCCE has egg on their face now.
Clean Coal Believers ~ don’t be fooled again. There is nothing clean about coal.