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Wind Catcher: The Power of Social Permitting


As one of the largest utility companies in the U.S., AEP powers millions of homes and businesses. Together with their subsidiaries, like PSO and SWEPCO, they serve over 5.5 million customers in 11 different states.

Challenge

AEP and its subsidiaries, PSO and SWEPCO, attempted to build a $4.5 billion project in Oklahoma called Wind Catcher that would have been the nation’s largest wind farm and a more than 350-mile transmission line. In addition to regulatory and logistical challenges, the company’s primary communication problem was building a positive reputation in communities where it currently did not operate—but organized opposition to the project did.


Insights

Knowledge of the local communities, elected officials and influencers, plus empathy for the challenges facing these mostly rural people were the key to connecting with them and winning their trust.


Solution

We planned and executed a year-long stakeholder engagement campaign.

  • Strategic and crisis communications counsel
  • Landowner outreach
  • Media & community relations
  • Regulatory support, including white papers and FAQs
  • Event planning and execution 
  • Media planning and creative execution of television, print, radio and digital advertising
  • Website and content development
  • Messaging research and polling

Results

The project faced several logistical and regulatory challenges that ultimately could not be overcome. However, we successfully executed the below activities.

  • 17 open houses with more than 1,500 participants; communication with hundreds of landowners
  • 50+ community meetings and speaking engagements; hundreds of media placements; millions of impressions from the paid-media campaign in OK, AK, and LA
  • Hundreds of advocates engaged and activated, showing support through letters and emails to regulators, testimonials