With COP26 now over, we’ve wrapped up some of the event’s highlights – here’s our take on the event that put Glasgow on the map and played host to some critical discussions and international commitments, many powered by the unique orange fizz that is Irn Bru.
- GREEN POLITICS ON THE RISE… COP26 was aimed as much at British voters as it was international audiences and was intended to convince the electorate that the Government is leading the world in delivering an ambitious (but pragmatic) switch to net zero. As with May 2021’s regional elections, the current administration is hoping voters connect green with growth and remember this as a high point when they next head to the ballot box.
- WALKING THE WALK – Private jets taken by billionaires and key public figures, while lecturing individuals on the climate crisis, was, let’s face it, not a great look. Yet, the one positive conversation to stem from this issue was the importance of moving forward ‘guilt-free aviation’. And it was ZeroAvia that led the charge at COP26 by making the case for hydrogen-powered aviation as THE silver bullet solution to decarbonising air travel. Follow this link to learn more.
- IRN BRU IS AOK FOR AOC – While inevitably the focus is on the climate debate at COP26, it’s also nice to see it was a venue for cultural exchange, such as this moment in which Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was introduced to the infamous orange nectar. It became quite a talking point for delegates, with opinion firmly split, but a great case study in the power of digital for politicians like AOC to humanise themselves, at a time when trust in public servants is at an all-time low.
- GAFFES GALORE – It beggars belief that in today’s digital age, with tech solutions designed to make the execution of events a breeze, they are powerless when it comes to human error. COP26 may have put Glasgow on the map but many couldn’t even wrap their heads around the location of the conference. Even Obama, usually a slick and polished orator, mixed up Scotland with Ireland. And who can forget Australian PM Scott Morrison’s Freudian slip, where he misrepresented tackling climate change as ‘tackling China’ (which went viral). It’s an age-old piece of advice, but when it comes to any form of public appearance – be prepared, or prepare to fail…
- GOOD COP, BAD COP…? It was interesting to witness the sheer volume of analysis around whether COP was all it was cracked up to be, so early on in the event. Concerns arose that some countries were downplaying the scale of the 1.5 degrees challenge and Greta dismissed the whole affair as being “blah blah blah”. Following a turbulent two weeks of negotiations in Glasgow, the Glasgow Climate Pact was finally struck and became the headline outcome. As for whether the conference was good, bad, or blah, at the very least it served as a platform to highlight some of the most pressing challenges of our time. Governments alone can’t solve these issues – we all have a part to play. As ever, success will be defined by doing…
At Madano, we’re lucky enough to work with organisations who are using technology, engineering and science to shape the future of sustainability. To talk to us about your strategic communications challenge, please get in touch at [email protected]
Andrew Turner, Associate Director in Madano’s Energy practice, shares his thoughts ahead of COP26. With the Conference finally here, hoards descending upon Glasgow, Greta Thunberg being greeted like a celebrity and the start of the dialogue, it is now time to see what ‘meaningful and effective’ (unsure what this is in Italian/G20 thinking) discussions and commitments (if any) will come from the largest international gathering since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Staying relevant in the energy transition
However, one question keeps bugging me. In our race to Net Zero and the climate change commitments, can we really turn our backs on the past? Ben van Beurden’s comments were stark last week commenting that Shell ‘would not have been welcome’ in Glasgow. Whether we like it or not, Shell is one of the key influencers in the UK’s and global energy sector. Would you want your football team to play their cup final without their one of the most influential players?
We have seen the Global Investment Summit bring together exciting technologies, such as fusion, fuel cell and sustainable aviation innovators (all projects we support at Madano) seeking capital to progress along their development pathways. But with natural gas still making up a significant percentage of our energy system, and likely to do so for decades to come, we still need to look at the role oil and gas majors can play in low carbon transition.
Shell have focused on CCS; BP are a leading presence in the East Coast decarbonisation cluster and are setting 2050 net zero targets and Total have rebranded to the technicolour-dream-coat of TotalEnergies in a bid to communicate their commitment to change. We should not be afraid to acknowledge that the Net Zero, or our orderly transition as it is sometimes known, will be A) expensive B) hard work C) involve oil and gas and coal too, especially in the developing world. We can’t simply reinvent out way to a low carbon transition.
Accepting that we can’t forget the past
When we talk about ‘difficult choices’ we see the COP26 President Alok Sharma finding it ‘difficult’ to commit either way on Andrew Marr. We know that there will be changes to our lifestyles – whether that be subtle comments about eating less meat, or increases in taxes for long-haul flights. Things are changing.
The deeper communications issue for me, is the reality that every day we use oil and gas. Whether we like it or not, oil and gas underpins all our activity. We can’t drive our cars, drink a bottle of water or work on our laptops without it. Hydrocarbons play a key role in our society, however, this is not communicated clearly enough by organisations, individuals, and governments. Sure, there can be eye catching headlines from the PM about plastic recycling not working. Focusing exclusively on wind farms, battery plants and fusion distracts from key issues, such as where the oil and gas is going to come from to sustain our lifestyles and how we can ensure this is as low carbon as possible.
The central challenge is how we transition away from these sources of energy, as quickly as possible, but recognising some industries cannot simply be electrified at the flip of a switch. Project narratives and communications plans need to acknowledge the energy mix, today, tomorrow and in the decades to 2050. Stakeholders, whether that be investors, communities or the media are demanding more and more information to make their own decisions about how investments today will impact balance sheets and dividends in our Net Zero society.
What to expect from Glasgow?
We have already seen strong language from the PM around the clock ticking to midnight, Prince Charles coming to the table and Glasgow being the ‘best, last hope’ to hit our 1.5-degree ambition. The UK ranks 5th in the league table for cumulative carbon emissions and this means we have a sizeable role to play in supporting global decarbonisation. One of the core pillars of this COP is to increase financial support for the developing world to deliver $100bn climate financing a year alongside greater collaboration.
Looking closer to home, big issues like Cambo or continuation of hydrocarbon production will not be resolved this week, but with organisations calling for quicker and more transformational change to Net Zero we must recognise that our lifestyles can’t be left behind.
Madano Energy practice advises clients in the energy transition, infrastructure, and development sectors to shape their narrative, engage with Government and stakeholders and to communicate their objectives in creative and impactful ways. If you would like to speak to the author, Andrew Turner, or a member of the team, please contact us: [email protected].
Photo Credit: Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Inspired by more than three and a half decades of his own experience in broadcast media, journalism, PR and communications, Mark Dailey, Partner at Madano, has distilled his expertise into an insightful business guide that explains why the core skill needed by future leaders is authentic and effective communication.
‘A Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Restoring Authenticity in a World of Change’, has been published by Routledge and is now available from Amazon and Waterstones.
You know the cliché about the tyranny of the blank page when you’re faced with writing anything from scratch. Well the thing about clichés is that they are based on truth.
Imagine sitting down to start an entire book – forget tyranny. More like full-blooded revolution.
And yet the idea of writing this book had been building for a while as clients kept asking me to recommend one communications book that pulled everything together in one place – how to present, deal with the media, show empathy, weave in emotion, connect with audiences, show empathy, deal with PowerPoint and get to the point – all the topics I have covered in training and coaching sessions for the past decade. To be honest, I couldn’t think of one book that dealt with everything.
And so when COVID hit, the decision to fire the starting gun on the book was relatively easy. If not now, when would I get another chance like this? The sheer disruption of COVID – and the ‘end of days’ tone adopted by too many journalists – seemed to make everything a bit more urgent. Plus, at 63, you don’t have unlimited time to procrastinate.
I was lucky. Because I had worked in television for over a decade, I was used to writing to deadline.
And I had a built-in framework for what I wanted to do. I would use the structure I follow in most of my communications work – audience, content, and engagement – to set out what good looks like in the beginning part of the book.
But COVID intruded my thoughts again. It seemed to me that the pandemic was accelerating disruptive and fundamental technological change and how people felt about a host of social justice issues. This swirling cauldron of change seemed to me to be ushering in a demonstrably different landscape in which leaders would be communicating. And so the idea of setting the scene and providing a contextual wrapper for what good communication looks like was born.
I revisited some interesting research we had done as a strategic communications agency, back in 2012, looking at the emerging ‘changing communications landscape’ then and updated some key themes and takeaways.
The book began to take shape as I thought about what would be needed from leaders intent on helping their organisations navigate this fast-changing world.
I wanted the book to deliver on the initial premise – which was to provide a guide to what good ‘looks like’. So, I deliberately set this out in some of the most common and important types of communications that all of us face in business: pitching our ideas, presenting, facilitating events or small groups of people, managing team meetings, giving interviews and on to bigger assignments such as driving change and handling crises.
The final ‘missing ingredient’ was that the more I thought about what good looks like – what people regularly say in giving feedback about what they felt was most effective and moving in someone’s communication – the more this equated with what I felt was most needed on the societal front. That is a restoration of authenticity to our communications.
And so in the last part of the book, I tried to articulate what the authentic leader looks like and why these qualities of integrity, compassion, kindness, humility and trust will become even more important as times get more uncertain and change gets faster and more complex. Having become a business coach 10 years ago, I found that the coaching dynamic is probably our best template for what authentic leadership communications looks like.
The book took about six months to write and seven months to edit – and then into production. It contains lots of case studies and observations on the good, bad and ugly that I’ve seen in my 38 years in communications.
Probably the biggest takeaway from the entire book is the idea that the one thing we always fear overdoing – is the one thing audiences crave the most – the off-piste moments when we let our hair down and speak with real emotion and honesty about what is really important. How seldom do we see or hear this and yet it is precisely this kind of meaning that people crave the most.
By Mark Dailey, Partner at Madano. Mark specialises in corporate and strategic communications, media training, facilitation, and transformation/crisis communications. To find out more about how Mark and the Madano team could help you, please get in touch at [email protected].