Overcome the Opposition: Bridge
Mark Sylvester: John Davies has a method. An approach he systematically developed over a career spanning three decades. He's proven it to be invaluable for dozens of industries and thousands of projects facing public acceptance. Up until now, the method has only been available to his select client list. John is unpacking his insight and wealth of knowledge to overcome opposition and earn public support for the first time right here. Throughout these episodes, we'll take a deep dive, step by step with John, into his strategies to overcome opposition and create support. Nothing is free in this world, but good ideas are priceless. This show could be just the thing you've been looking for. I'm Mark Sylvester. Now, let's get started and talk with John.
John, welcome back. So last week, we were talking about embracing to engage, and we said that the fourth step is called bridge. Why do you call it bridge?
John Davies: It's so funny. Why come up with names for these? And part of it is just for me, to really think about it and let people know. So bridge is like you're moving from one side to the other side. So you're crossing a big river, and I want to make it really clear that this is different than the others. So we acknowledge there's gonna be impacts when we build a wind farm. We contrast immediately the impacts of not building a wind farm with the impacts of building a wind farm. That ... much better to build one. And then we embrace and engage, and that is really getting under people's skin with a good thing and getting them to work. Now, let's bridge across and talk about the financials. And the reason we want to make this so separate this is, people aren't willing to go with us. No one's willing to sell out their community for jobs or tax revenue.
Mark Sylvester: Also, you haven't established any trust.
John Davies: There is no trust, and there's no relationship. And so the deal is, if you start off by saying exactly what we'll say in the bridge stage, where we'll talk about the economics. If you start with that, you have people slowly leave you. Support dwindles.
Mark Sylvester: In our episode around embrace and engage, which was really about benefits, and communicating all the benefits. You said the non-financial benefits. Now, we're talking about the financial benefits. I see why it wouldn't be first, but is there a reason we talk about non-financial benefits before financial benefits?
John Davies: Yeah. That's more of a value-based versus a financial-based. Obviously, they get linked pretty closely, but the idea is making payments to family farms have a values-based benefit. Not just the dollar amount. The idea is talking about the benefits without putting the dollars on it. Because when you put the dollars on it, they're either too big and unbelievable, or they're too small. It depends on where you are, so you gotta make the social and the value-based message first.
Mark Sylvester: Then, is this best ... I'm trying to think of how you best communicate that because numbers can be so abstract. Are you kind of contrasting numbers too, a little bit?
John Davies: Yeah. You do. You want to put them beside something. So if you're talking about the benefit to a school district when you're in the bridge ... So what are we talking about numbers? What are we gonna pay to family farmers? Sometimes we talk about it annually. Sometimes we talk about it over the life of the wind farm - 20, 30 years. Sometimes we talk about it per farmer. It depends on the community, and what we hear in the research. And the one thing we know is big, big numbers make people believe it's not true.
Mark Sylvester: Oh.
John Davies: So if we're gonna be paying $2,000,000 a year to farmers, and over 30 years, we're gonna be paying $60,000,000 dollars to farmers in a community where it's tough going for agriculture, it's like, "Whoa. Whoa, that's a lot." And then, what is a revenue to the school? So what's a revenue to the school? Well, we're gonna be providing the school with X million of dollars a year, which what does that mean? Well, that means that we're providing the school with an additional 15% funding. With no kids coming from us, so it's not like a real estate development where you're providing money because you're building homes, and new families are gonna be coming to town, and they're gonna be sending kids to school. We add no kids, but we provide this revenue.
Mark Sylvester: I like that idea of chunking down the communication to a bite-size piece, let's say, because that again, is more believable, more relatable, more like my next door neighbor.
John Davies: Right.
Mark Sylvester: Right?
John Davies: And we've tested in public opinion surveys where we will talk about numbers, and everyone says, this is going to be ... 61% is going be blah, blah, blah. And then we try 81% is blah, blah, blah. 61% gets a better review. We have more people because it's more believable. When it's so big a number, people think you're lying. So it's gotta be believable and defensible.
Mark Sylvester: Someone taught us in storytelling, we could say, "I put on this really, really heavy rucksack. It was 52 pounds," or, "I put on this heavy, heavy rucksack. It was the weight of two car tires and a bowling ball."
John Davies: Right. Right. And so it's interesting. For instance, the CEO of Intel told the story, I think in 2010, about their new chip. And it's this fast, and does this, and does this. And then he said, "Let me compare this to the auto industry. So if the distance we've come in chips was the distance in the same time auto industry, the car would go 500 miles and hour. It would get 470 miles a gallon, and it would cost three cents." And I don't know if those are exact numbers from my memory, but the idea is, it's ridiculous, but that makes the point. How far the chip industry had come versus any other industry. So having that contrast, but also having the ability to put numbers in some context.
And so, when we get to this point. Where we start talking numbers after we've talked everything else, it makes people want to listen to them more. They've already said, "Okay. Okay, I get the benefits of wind. I'm open-minded to this." And then, "Oh. I like the numbers." Now a lot of people will stick with the numbers as the reason for staying on board, but you don't get 'em on board because of the numbers.
Mark Sylvester: In an earlier episode, we talked about the psychological underpinnings of the method, right?
John Davies: Right.
Mark Sylvester: Because the psychology of persuasion. Is there a psychology to how you present finances?
John Davies: First off, as I just said, it's gotta be believable, and it's gotta be real.
Mark Sylvester: Okay.
John Davies: And it's gotta be broken down in a way where people see where it really goes, and there's a reason for it. And it's nice to have proof that it's been done in another community, and in a close by place, and it's something they see. So the psychology is: It's been done before. It's real. I can go find out.
Mark Sylvester: That feels like in the Crossing the Chasm, they talk about the early adopter, the early majority, late majority, so it feels like that's a late majority thing. They want to see that other people have done it.
John Davies: Exactly. Exactly. Because the bad stuff on the internet, will claim nothing works. The one wind turbine that breaks down someplace out of thousands of them is what the cover photo is, and that's all they talk about how that costs money. So they never let you get to that point on those, so they're gonna go look, and we need to direct them to areas where it shows this community's really rocking because they have a wind farm.
Mark Sylvester: I'm curious on fact checking because that seems to be a thing that people do now. Now, we're in the numbers, right?
John Davies: Right.
Mark Sylvester: These are facts. Do you footnote all of your facts?
John Davies: It depends. It depends where we're doing it from and where ... So if we're footnoting the facts of what's gonna go to the school district based on our economics, but the school district is either against us because someone on the school board doesn't want wind farms, we gotta be really careful citing that they go to the school, because the school will come out and say, "We don't believe those numbers." So, yep. Every case is different.
Or the school board doesn't want to get involved, or the superintendent doesn't want to get involved. So if we have a superintendent that's like, "I so can't wait to get a wind farm here because we are dying. That money will save our schools." Then we want to cite the school district budget.
Mark Sylvester: I've heard you say when we've talked about this bridge and finances, you say don't wave money. What does that mean?
John Davies: Well, if you start by waving money in front of people, it looks like you're trying to buy them. No one wants to be bought. Everyone wants to wooed. One, they want to be wooed. Tell me why. Let me make up my own mind. And they want something to be good for the community. You’ve got to look at building a wind farm just like building a nuclear power plant or a coal fire plant. You've gotta give them the value-based message. And we have such a better value-based message than any other source of electricity, and we leave it on the table way too much. We just jump right into the numbers.
Think about it. Wind's out there saying the same thing that a coal fire plant would do, or a natural gas plant. We're gonna provide X number of jobs and X million dollars in tax revenue. And we don't start with the other benefits. That's just leaving all your best plays on the table and not taking it out.
Mark Sylvester: John, I love how you've taken us through The Davies Method from acknowledging, to contrasting, to embracing to engage, and then bridging, and that's the strategy part. We still have some episodes to go 'cause we're not done. I want you to talk about what's coming up.
John Davies: Well, it's sort of interesting because this early stage is to really get a framework and an approach in your head. So it's a little tedious, I would guess, for some folks, but if you get this approach in your head, it helps you go to the tactical and how you start to reach out. So the last five things I think we're gonna talk about here, I believe, is we're gonna go through how we do this. And so, one is, how do we do this listening? How do we do this research? And I'm going to unpack how we do it and why we do it, so you can do it yourself. If you want to do it. How we get people to talk to us.
Mark Sylvester: So we'll spend a whole episode on that.
John Davies: Then we're gonna talk about how we address people's dreams and fears because that's where people live - in their dreams and fears. And in the society we live in today, there's so much fear.
Then we're going to talk about how to get the message out. How do we get it out? How do we use grassroots, and how do you build off the grassroots to social media, digital media? How do we use it with traditional media?
And then, how do you cultivate the relationship so a supporter becomes an advocate? How do you do that? What are the steps? And there are real steps.
And then last, how do we ask for help? How do you ask for help, and how do you continue to ask for help and keep that moving?
So I think those will be very practical and very hands-on for folks.
Mark Sylvester: For this bridge episode, something that they could do once they finish the podcast would probably be, go look at do they have A done? Do they have E done? Do they have C done?
John Davies: Well, you just hit it. For this one?
Mark Sylvester: Yeah.
John Davies: Don't do it until you have everything done because you already know how to do this 'cause this is what you do.
Mark Sylvester: John, thanks a lot. I can't wait for our next episode.
John Davies: I look forward to it.
Mark Sylvester: Thank you for listening. It's now your opportunity and responsibility to use the method today. You've completed one segment toward understanding The Davies Method. We look forward to you subscribing. Join us as we uncover and explain the nuances of John's distinctive approach. For more episodes, visit thedaviesmethod.com. I'm Mark Sylvester, recording at The Pullstring Press Studios in Santa Barbara, California.