Continuing a Thought Leadership Strategy for ComEd

Lead PI: Jeffrey Schlegelmilch

Unit Affiliation: National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP)

January 2021 - December 2021
Project Type: Research Outreach

DESCRIPTION: The establishment of microgrids for the electrical infrastructure helps to sustain the ability of a community to bounce-back after a disaster by mitigating the impacts of wide-spread power outages and hardening critical infrastructure to better withstand and recover from disasters. Power outages are also one of the largest contributors to indirect deaths from hurricanes and other disaster events and can have repercussions on both the health and mental health of those affected by disasters. ComEd has been investing in micro grid and smart city initiatives to build disaster resilience in communities. ComEd and NCDP have been collaborating over the past 12 months to present a series of thought leadership pieces that address the role of energy utilities in fostering resilience to climate change and related disasters. The work has led to numerous publicly disseminated articles on the topics of climate change, both the threats presented by it and the adaptations moving towards resilience, and the future development of technologies and the energy sector workforce. Additionally, with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic there has been some crossover to address the role of energy utilities in a public health disaster especially.

NCDP proposes to continue collaboration with ComEd in presenting thought leadership indicating the role of energy utilities in fostering resilience to climate change and related disasters. The thought leadership will continue to be directed towards practitioners, policymakers and other stakeholders including the general public. Phase II of this engagement will first re-establish a strategy for thought leadership content development and dissemination, with the second priority being to create and maintain an online portal for collecting all thought leadership pieces and weaving a cohesive narrative from the separate publications.

A. Re-Assess Thought Leadership Objectives and Strategy – Preliminary
As a conclusion to Phase I and in preparation for Phase II of Thought Leadership, NCDP will convene a communications planning meeting with ComEd (estimated 8-12 people) to reassess overarching communications objectives and target audiences for the production and dissemination of thought leadership products to enhance knowledge and awareness of this topic and its relationship to disaster resilience. This meeting will be hosted via Zoom, and will be facilitated by NCDP staff. NCDP will manage preparation of materials for the meeting, including any read-ahead materials, invitation outreach as necessary and site logistics. The outcome of this meeting will be a draft strategy document presented to ComEd for review and comment no more than two weeks from the initial meeting date. The report will include: Thought leadership topics for research and development;
Thought leadership objectives and target audiences; Knowledge gaps among key stakeholder groups; Types of informational outputs to be developed; Categories of communications channels (e.g. web, conferences, etc.); Metrics for measuring the effectiveness of strategy implementation;
Online portal development specifications and plan of action; Approximate timeline of activities;
Mapping of topics to objectives and audiences defined in the communications strategy;
Identification of specific communications channels to best educate the target stakeholder groups (e.g. social media channels, professional conferences, media outlets, etc.); and
identification of potential subject matter experts to support the synthesis of research into outreach and education communications (ComEd, NCDP and third-party contributors).
After receipt and discussion of comments on ComEd, the strategy document will be finalized and will serve as the basis for ongoing thought leadership content development.

B. Thought Leadership Content Research and Development – Months 1-12
NCDP will research and develop content for up to 10 op-ed style publications or white papers up to 1,500 words in length. NCDP will work with ComEd co-authors as appropriate on agreed upon themes. This will include summaries of the existing literature and evidence base, as well as contextualizing this for contemporary challenges facing utility providers, particularly in the energy sector. Themes presently represented in on-going work are:
Climate change adaptations and resilience; workforce development; the future outlook for energy; COVID-19 pandemic analytics and decision support; Climate resilience series (Resilient Grid of the Future); Air quality and public health; and exercises and simulations for energy resilience.
Based on the outcomes of the preliminary planning meeting, some of these workstreams may be amplified or concluded, depending on the prioritization of topics for 2021.

C. Thought Leadership Portal Development
NCDP will further enhance a digital platform to serve as a repository for thought leadership content developed as well as hub connecting to content that has been developed and published or presented through other venues to support ongoing education and sharing of educational materials with stakeholders. NCDP will maintain this platform throughout the project.
The preliminary platform is already in development as a microsite to be hosted on the NCDP webpage. With additional investment of effort, the web portal can be further developed into a standalone site or may replicate the model of other previous work that NCDP has completed.

D. Monitoring and Reporting
NCDP will continue to provide bimonthly reporting on thought leadership content development by objectives and audiences. Reporting will also include utilization of the digital platform as well as dissemination statistics, attendance at presentation, and other metrics as available. NCDP will also monitor social media and report on impressions made on various channels.