Helping an energy association’s members navigate a constantly shifting operating landscape

Challenge: The energy industry has become increasingly volatile in recent years amid heightened political, reputational, and policy risk. To help their members anticipate these risks and identify new opportunities, a national trade association turned to Delve for timely and accurate public affairs intelligence.

Solution: Delve’s work began with a robust risk assessment of the policy environment on specific industry issues across the country. This research provided the  association and its member companies with a deeper understanding of where the current or potential level of policy activity is highest and which organizations and individuals were shaping the debate. Informed by this foundational research, Delve’s analysts stood up a custom monitoring and analysis program for the association and produce regular trend reports for its members, as well as in-person and virtual briefings on the risk assessment and how key trends that could impact their interests are developing.

Results: The risk assessment helped the association and its members understand how key policy debates were evolving and where risks to the industry could appear next. Our systematic monitoring and analysis helps the association anticipate and mitigate those risks before it is too late, while trend reports educate its members on the evolving political and reputational risks in their operating environment so they can engage the right stakeholders and policymakers to ensure their projects and initiatives are successful.

Major chemical manufacturer facing an onslaught of activists

Challenge

For companies with multiple product lines, retail outlets, and business partners, knowing your network is vital. Facing a network of opposition, a major chemical manufacturer needed to identify and monitor the actors related to their issue set.

Solution

To understand and anticipate actions from within this network, we built a monitoring platform that serves as an “early warning system” for events, actions, and tactics that may be used against the interests of the manufacturer and other stakeholders. The anticipatory model was built using thorough background research we conducted on the frontline and behind-the-scenes activists and organizations, scientists, foundations, lobbyists/lawyers, and public relations consultants that make up this network of opposition.

The research started with a list of 21 groups to be examined which led us to an additional 15 groups that were assessed in a second wave of reports. This information was then used to produce an overview report providing the taxonomy of the network, its scope of influence, interactions between and among the various groups, and the inferred strategy and observed tactics utilized by the activists and organizations within. With the network mapped out, we created a monitoring platform to watch the network in action and report on its efforts and activities on a weekly basis.

Results

Through our ongoing monitoring, we were able to identify items of an urgent nature, such as when hackers used the March Against Monsanto to breach several chemical companies’ email servers, and send out timely alerts. We enabled this chemical manufacturer to be proactive rather than simply reactive to the actions of their opponents.

Enabling A Successful Multibillion-Dollar Telecommunications Merger

Challenge

A major telecommunications company was seeking federal and state regulatory approvals for a highly publicized, multibillion-dollar merger while defending the deal against a well-organized opposition. Another company had made a similar merger attempt that ended in spectacular and costly failure, and public sentiment seemed broadly against this large-scale consolidation. This problem was compounded by a preexisting network of opponents looking to hobble the approval process at every opportunity.

Solution

Our foundational research identified the key stakeholders and coalitions most likely to oppose to the merger, as well as what their motivations for and specific objections were. We then analyzed these opponents’ methods of operation, the communications channels they utilized, as well as their sources of funding, key personnel, and past activities. Based on this analysis, we outlined the strategies and tactics they would likely employ and the criticisms they would likely level at the deal.

Working seamlessly with the internal and external public affairs teams of the client, we utilized this foundational research to provide valuable insights throughout the regulatory approval process, ensuring the company, their government relations advisers, and other internal and external consultants were able to anticipate and overcome any and all public criticism with fact-driven messaging and rapid response. Digging deep into the network of opponents from the outset ensured that we knew what attacks to expect and allowed us to prepare pushback materials that guaranteed this criticism could not gain traction with regulators or the public.

Results

By assessing the merger’s various opponents, we were able to determine the split between those stakeholders who objected over specific concerns or were seeking certain concessions, and ideologically-motivated opponents of corporate-owned media consolidation more generally. Utilizing this understanding allowed those working on regulatory approval to fracture the coalition of opposition as soon as it launched, cratering any potential momentum against the deal.

Monitoring the remaining opponents’ efforts in real time then allowed the client to expose and undermine their astroturf efforts. For example, we assessed public comments filed with the FCC and determined a large percentage were not only repeat messages driven by several opposition websites, but that a significant portion of those comments came from outside the areas affected by the merger. These efforts were effective in ensuring federal and state regulators did not succumb to opposition pressure and approved the merger.

Mitigating risks to international investments in health and life sciences

The Challenge: Local NGOs in key regions around the world were mounting sophisticated efforts to influence government policies and actions in ways that could undermine policies that are crucial to international investment in health and life sciences. The client was seeking to better understand who was funding and supporting these on-the-ground efforts so they could anticipate and mitigate those efforts.

The Solution: We began by producing a network overview report that detailed how international groups and global funders supported and directed the activities of local, seemingly-grassroots organizations. The overview report identified the key groups involved, which countries they were active in, the funding and other technical and legal support they provided, and how the groups at various levels coordinated and collaborated to influence national government and multilateral policies.

We then stood up an ongoing monitoring program informed by the network overview to provide regular analysis on activists messaging and influence efforts, collaboration among the various groups, and communication with national government and multilateral officials.

The Result: The network overview helped the client understand the nature and scope of the challenge they were facing. The monitoring alerted the client to issues before it was too late to mitigate their impacts.

Pharmaceutical company facing inexplicable opposition to a next generation drug

Challenge

A pharmaceutical company had developed a next generation treatment for a significant life-threatening disease. The company’s engagement with patient advocates and other stakeholders had proven mostly successful and won them significant support for the future release of this drug. However, there was one very vocal organization that vociferously opposed this next generation treatment at the FDA and elsewhere.

Solution

We were engaged to help the firm understand the motivations of this opponent and provide a roadmap for overcoming this opposition in order to successfully win approval for this lifesaving drug. Through our research, we exposed this group’s true motivation for breaking from other stakeholders and opposing the drug. We discovered that the main source of revenue for this organization was treatment clinics that used the current generation of drug treatments that aided but did not prevent the disease. The organization had a history of similar controversy and loud objections that could reduce their credibility, as demonstrated by the range of key voices among patient advocates and other stakeholders we were able to identify who were highly critical of this organization.

Results

The materials and insights we provided allowed the pharmaceutical company to build a narrative that marginalized the organization and successfully overcame their objections.

Understanding the networks of influence fuels renewable energy project success

Challenge: Getting infrastructure projects built is harder than ever – even when those projects advance clean energy goals. Without the community’s trust and support, projects can experience costly delays and disruptions. That’s why an energy developer turned to Delve to help them understand the range of stakeholders engaging in the permitting and approval processes for their project.

Solution: We identified the key elected and appointed officials in the communities where permitting was needed, as well as the stakeholders who could influence them. We then researched these officials’ background and record, including past votes and comments on energy issues and infrastructure projects, community involvement, and centers of influence around them, to understand who would be an ally and who would need more persuasion on the value of the project.

Results: Our analysis helped the company secure allies and anticipate opposition by informing the company’s messaging campaign and engagement plan. When executed, this strategic plan enabled the company’s public affairs team to build trust with the local communities and win support for their project plans.

 

 

 

 

 

Activist shareholders seeking to expose financial and management improprieties

Challenge

An activist shareholder had reason to suspect financial and management improprieties at an energy sector company that had quickly risen from an over-the-counter penny stock to a seemingly overvalued NYSE-traded company. The shareholder needed someone to dig deeper than their initial analysis and help them compile the research into a compelling narrative and easily understood materials for reporters to use.

Solution

After reviewing the client’s existing research, we dug further. Assets valued at $350 million on the company books were actually worth much less. The CEO lived in an extravagant mansion and had an overly generous compensation plan. The company plane was flying to places where there were no company operations, but where the CEO could entertain his girlfriend.

Working with an investigative reporter, we helped expose this questionable activity and put pressure on the company to release its long overdue annual financial report to the SEC. The company scrambled and produced the annual report, only to pull it back after it was determined that the auditing firm had never signed off on it and their signature had been used without their authorization on the report.

Results

After the investigative journalism website TheStreetSweeper.org published a lengthy piece detailing the information the shareholder and we had unearthed, we secured national press attention on the company including an article in Politico highlighting the political connections of one of their board members and multiple segments on CNBC. TheStreetSweeper.org also published a follow up piece to their initial investigation.

Through this exposure, the company stock cratered more than 40% and several law firms filed class action lawsuits against the company, its executives, and the board of directors. As of August 6, 2015, the SEC has also filed charges against the company, “seeking to obtain cease-and-desist orders, civil monetary penalties, and return of allegedly ill-gotten gains.”

As we proved to our client, anybody can come up with 500 pages of research, but it is most important to hone in on the key pieces of information that can actually be used to make a difference.

Regional industry coalition discovers it is funding its own opposition

Challenge

Several foundations were presenting themselves to a regional industry coalition’s corporate members as friendly partners on corporate sustainability initiatives. The coalition leadership suspected there was more to the foundations than met the eye. We were commissioned to investigate the activities of these foundations, which groups they were funding, and how the various foundations and other groups were connected and related.

Solution

We dug in deep to discover which groups were getting funded by the foundations and what initiatives were their true focus. We then mapped the network of activist groups connected to these foundations and presented a comprehensive report of these relationships and groups to the coalition leadership.

Although these foundations claimed to be working in good faith with coalition member companies, they were in fact funding much of the opposition to the industry group’s business goals with regulatory and legislative agencies. Our network map clearly showed how their member corporations were unknowingly funding their own opposition.

Results

With a full picture of the network of partnership and funding taking place, we provided the information needed for industry coalition’s leadership to shift their member’s funding efforts to foundations and causes that supported their interests.