Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Communicating Nuclear Energy: You Don't Have to Do It Alone

Elizabeth Fako
The following is a guest post by Elizabeth Fako, a communications specialist at Entergy's River Bend Nuclear Station.

When people ask what my favorite part of my job is, the answer is easy: I get to spend every day working with people who think in a completely opposite way than me and I love that.

The operators, engineers and other “technically-minded” people I work closely with constantly challenge me to be a better communicator, nuclear professional and communications coach. As much as I love that aspect of my job, there’s something to be said for spending time with like-minded people. That’s one reason I found NEI’s Fundamentals of Nuclear Communication workshop so valuable; I not only got to spend three days working with other communications professionals, but also with other communicators from the nuclear industry – a career as unique as it sounds.

Our presenters included NEI representatives and industry experts, sharing a wealth of knowledge ranging from the nuts and bolts of reactor basics and Radiation 101 to practical on-camera media training and event response. As if nuclear technology isn’t complicated enough for someone with a public relations degree, we even bordered on the edge of brain surgery…okay, maybe just basic anatomy. Either way I was channeling all my neuro-knowledge from many seasons of Grey’s Anatomy to follow along with the diagram of how the brain processes fear to better manage risk communications. Although we only had time to skim the surface on tactical topics like employee communications, public opinion and social media, there was plenty of time to litter my notebook with asterisks to follow-up questions, items to look into further, ideas to bring back to my plant site and more.

The most valuable thing I took away from the course is an appreciation for the resources available, both information and people, to help us as communicators not only do our jobs better, but to help the nuclear industry as a whole.

Being a communications staff of one at a station with more than 600 employees can sometimes feel daunting. I left D.C. last week with a stack of business cards and new LinkedIn connections with individuals who not only understand my position, but have either lived it before or are living it now - and are more than willing to help. Each of us is in a position to represent our sites and companies, as well as to advocate for the nuclear industry as a whole. It’s comforting to know we don’t have to do it alone.

For that I say thank you to the entire NEI staff for this workshop and for all the resources you make available to us; to each of the presenters for sharing their insights and advice; and to my colleagues in the class for echoing my enthusiasm for this industry.

I truly believe nuclear is the future of energy and look forward to working alongside my colleagues to create that future.

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