Tuesday, February 22, 2011

PR Firm Disses Environmentalists

Greg Matusky, founder and president of Gregory FCA, is a PR guy. His company, located in the suburbs just west of Philadelphia, is ranked “one of the nation’s top 30 PR agencies” – at least that’s what he claims on his website.

Yesterday Matusky posted an essay about how the image of Marcellus Shale seems to have hit some headwinds in the court of public opinion. A bit of a mixed metaphor, but we get the picture.

“Are we winning or losing the public relations battle on Marcellus Shale?” Matusky asks. After noting the downward slope in public opinion about drilling, he lists six steps the gas industry must take to win the PR battle for the hearts and minds of energy-hungry Americans.

The industry, Matusky says, needs to focus on publishing the facts – and lots of them. They need to stop responding to negative criticism, focus media stories on the people that the industry helps, dominate the online discussion, put things in context (he says “connect the dots”), and control the language.

“Fracking” is not a good word, says Matusky; it has too many negative connotations.

Those who think “fracking” perfectly captures what industrial shalegas production is all about have no quarrel with Matusky’s advice to the industry – it’s pretty standard for any group waging a public relations campaign.

They do, however, take exception to the way he paints gas industry critics. The problem isn’t Marcellus shale, says Matusky. It’s that “naysayers -- who often aren't under the same time constraint as gainfully employed Americans -- have more idle time to plant falsehoods, raise suspicions, and demonize the oil and gas industry.”

In one highly charged sentence Matusky pretty much dismisses the hard-working, environmentally concerned attorneys, journalists, bloggers, farmers, teachers, county supervisors, scientists, engineers, geologists, highway department workers, loggers, viticulturists, ranchers, social services workers and hunting guides who want the pace of drilling slowed down.

He certainly can’t be referring the high school teacher from Upstate NY who told me that for the past three years he has devoted what little time he has left after a busy week in the classroom to write letters and attend hearings.

For sure Matusky can’t mean the financial services representative who not only works full time but put himself through school to earn additional licenses for his job.

No way can Matusky be referring to full-time stay-at-home parents who are sacrificing their future earnings and 401K’s to raise the next generation while juggling farm chores and home-based work. Writes one such farmer, “What about those of us who value well-being as opposed to having lots of cash?”

What exactly is Matusky implying, she asks? Is he implying that people who work two jobs from home are not doing their research on the topic? Is he implying that only highly-paid PR firms can do that kind of work? Or, she asks, “is he implying that the ‘gainfully employed’ are pro-drilling? Is he inferring that the ‘gainfully employed’ don't engage in social movements?”

Maybe he’s referring to the elected representatives in Congress who fully support the EPA’s study of hydro-fracking, and who are asking the oil and gas industry to pay for the Gulf spill clean-up.


  1. It's a touchy, personal criticism, but I think what he's implying is that there are quite a few basically full-time anti-drilling activists who don't otherwise have jobs.

  2. or maybe he's just trying to instigate class warfare... if I were one of his clients I might wonder about the way he so easily dismisses and stereotypes those he casually lumps together as "naysayers". Would he write about consumers who prefer Ford over Mitsubishi like this?

    For a guy who makes his living using precise language to sell products, you've gotta ask: what's he selling here - and who's paying him to sell it?

  3. "but I think what he's implying is that there are quite a few basically full-time anti-drilling activists who don't otherwise have jobs."

    He's not implying it, he's outright saying it. I know of exactly two "activists" who don't have regular jobs, and I expect that there are a few others, but most of us work full time, as Sue notes. (We can't afford PR flacks, either.)

    What I think Matusky IS implying is the same thing the gas industry does: that if you're engaging in an activity for money, whether it be fracking for gas or doing PR work for those who do, the fact that you're taking money validates the legitimacy of what they're doing. Whereas people who fight this thing without pay are somehow suspect by that very fact. That's bass ackwards from my POV.

    He's also implying that anti-frack activists are rich, which as a smear tactic is sort of ironic given his clients. But is he seriously suggesting that even the well-to-do would opt to spend their leisure time and money waging this battle for the fun of it?

    As it happens, many people fighting fracking are rural residents struggling to get by. That would include us: we've been approached about leasing, and the money would frankly be of great help -- but not if our well and air are polluted by fracking, and/or the area becomes a noisy industrial zone, in which case we might be driven out of our home even as it becomes almost worthless. It would ruin us financially. The gas proceeds (if any) based on our acreage would not come close to covering our monetary loss (and no, our home in not worth big bucks, we're well below the median price for our area).

    Jim H.

  4. I beg to disagree with Mr. Matusky -I am gainfully employed and I use all of my spare time or most of it, to find out and share the facts.
    I have immersed myself in this subject for over three years because I live in a community that has been taken over by this industry. Simply because I do not come to the same conclusions as the industry that signs his paycheck does not mean I am wrong or that I spread lies. He however is paid to smear dedicated and concerned citizens like myself.
    NEPA resident