Coal mining industry communicators should strike while the iron’s hot

A recent presidential executive order was signed in an effort to “revive the coal industry,” according to The New York Times.

And while there has been debate as to how effective that will be in the long run, for coal mining industry corporate communicators, now is the prime time to reach out to investors.

According to the Times, former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan — which President Trump directed to have rolled back and rewritten — would have closed hundreds of coal-fired power plants and stopped construction of new ones, replacing them with solar and wind farms. Since then, all eyes have been on the debate that’s erupted over whether President Trump’s actions will make coal king again.

It’s now crucial to take an active role in talking about how current events could impact your company. Focus on the positives while acknowledging that many — including the authors of a recent Columbia University report — still believe that natural gas and renewable energy will edge out coal. An honest approach builds respect and trust with investors. If you work for a coal company that’s diversifying its energy options, now is a great time to highlight that development.

Dig into the data

Do your research to find the most relevant statistics to share. Start general and then get specific based on where your company operates. For example, coal production during the first three months of 2017 was up 15 percent from production in the first quarter of 2016, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

If you’re in North Dakota or New Mexico, you might then highlight that coal production is expected to increase the most in the Western region of the United States. You can also pull data from industry groups like the National Mining Association. Keep your language upbeat, sharing good news about prices, production or new jobs, and make sure your message is consistent across all your communication channels.

Show how you’re helping

Perhaps your company is helping support coal communities — which are often geographically remote — with public health programs or other initiatives, or you’re partnering with nonprofits that help. CoalField Development Corporation, for example, a West Virginia-based social enterprise, helps rehabilitate dilapidated buildings and repurpose abandoned mine-lands in Appalachia. If you’re contributing to similar work, now is the perfect time to highlight the positive impact you’re making.

As the saying goes, the iron is hot. Strike now.

Deborah Blumberg has a decade of experience writing business and finance topics for The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, The Christian Science Monitor and Newsday. She was a Knight Center fellow and a Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism fellow and is a founder and co-president of the Texas chapter of American Society of Journalists and Authors.

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