LOUNGE COMMUNICATION, Budapest / PAKS NUCLEAR POWER PLANT - MVM / 2019
If you are Hungarian and over the age of 35, you surely have a memory related to the Ukraine’s nuclear disaster Chernobyl. People are highly sensitive to nuclear issues in our country and to the expansion of the Hungarian Nuclear Power Plant. In the last few years, general view of nuclear power has distorted in Hungary and the misinformation in the media increased negativity. HBO's Chernobyl TV series was just fuel to the fire. Our task was to take advantage of this opportunity and come up with an idea of how to reverse a negative attitude, to build confidence towards the domestic nuclear power plant and show the people there is nothing to be afraid. The main goal was to educate people and reshape the public opinion by generating social discussion about the utilization of nuclear energy in Hungary.
Our idea was to grab the special attention created by the HBO’s Chernobyl series and generate social discussion in this sensitive task to dispel the misconceptions of nuclear power. The solution was to let the people enter the core of their fears by inviting the media to the Paks Nuclear Power Plant for a special press event. The media was presented why the Chernobyl TV series could not have been filmed in Paks. It was a risky but obvious choice to grab this special attention, turn the negative attitudes upside down.
The Chernobyl TV series received special attention in Hungary and opened up a lot of traumas and fears. We directed media attention towards the Nuclear Power Plant with a reactive, honest and transparent communication strategy to generate social discussion by giving trustworthy information about the power plant. One of our credible experts was the Chairman of the Hungarian Nuclear Society who was the Hungarian delegate in 1986 when the Chernobyl disaster was reported for the first time for other countries. Our main message was that the power plant is safe, its operation is stable, while also emphasizing that the power plant does not silence anything and informs the public immediately in case of any minor problems (as opposed to many dangerous industrial activities). Our effort focused on one press event, which was very cost-effective and efficient by conveying our positive messages.
Our agency is responsible for the communication of the nuclear power plant throughout the whole year, so this press event was a part of an active cooperation, operating as a well-oiled machine, using various communication tools. We are constantly monitoring the news of the relevant sector, so as soon as we realized that the Chernobyl series was in spotlight, we immediately began setting up a strategy that allowed us to react quickly and efficiently. Right after the end of the TV series, we invited journalists to the nuclear power plant as a part of a press event, where experts shared detailed information about how our nuclear power plant works. Journalist had the opportunity to ask the experts and visit parts of the power plant that are not accessible to civilians. We invited all the important media outlets, including those that often criticized the power plant.
Nearly 30 media attended the event, including the most important media outlets of Hungary and all of them were positive about it. Nearly 100 press coverages were published which is a pretty big deal compared to the Hungarian media landscape. We reached 8,6 million OTS in a country with 10 million inhabitants. But our highest result is that the positive messages of the nuclear power plant got through in a negative/hostile media environment and reached the widest range of our target audience despite the high risk of the chosen communication tool.
According to the latest data, the opinion about the nuclear power and the power plant have improved: we have begun to rebuild the trust in the society. The attitude of journalists has also improved, fewer negative articles have been published since then, and we received several feedbacks that they are grateful because we have dispelled their misconceptions.
The economic return on the PR event is difficult to quantify, as nuclear power plants have already provided electricity in every second household in Hungary. Thus, the goal was not to increase profit, but building trust and reputation. We have achieved this and we will continue to maintain and maintain the positive image of nuclear energy both in the eyes of the media and society.