Strategic thinking: a problem for me and our quick-fix culture

October 1, 2008 at 5:06 pm 5 comments

As a PR professional hopeful, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve still got oodles to learn. One of the things I struggle with sometimes when writing up a situation analysis is strategy and strategic thinking. I find myself going back to fill in the strategies after the objectives are defined. My professors are cringing. But when you’re in the moment it’s difficult to see the bigger picture especially in our quick-fix society.

Lucky for me, I’m not the only one who battles with this skill.

Washington pressed for cleaner fuel
Politicians are really feeling the heat to support and mandate cleaner fuels, to take a stand on the energy crisis. As eco-friendlies, we know the clean fuel buzzword is ethanol. Yeah, it’s all gorgeously green in theory because it’s natural. Keyword being theory.

Amazon being cut for fieldsBoth ethanol and soy are marketed as a green solution, but it’s down the path of causing more harm than good. David Swain, author of Clean PR highlights the TIME article “The Clean Energy Scam.”  The article uncovers the damage to the Amazon to make room for more soy and corn fields. One step forward and two steps back. Bummer.

I couldn’t agree more when Swain said:

“With any ‘green’ progress will be tradeoffs and articles like this bring them to light. When progress starts looking like the opposite, it gets scary.”

Ethanol quick fix
The Washington elite felt the pressure to create a clean solution, and instead they created a quick fix. Even if we cut off oil ties and went full throttle with ethanol, corn isn’t an endless resource. At some point, the corn will starve the soil of all nutrients and the crop will no longer thrive. Not only that, but the video said 

“Turning all of America’s corn into ethnol will only meet 12 percent of our gasoline demand.”

Ethanol isn’t the answer to the oil dependency, although I wish it were that simple.

Staple's easy button

We’re trained at PRKent to think through a proposal – to research best practices, to strategically and holistically think through the issue. But it’s so tempting to choose the easy button, the option that will fix things for now.


We’re all guilty. We live in a quick-fix culture. Even when it comes to illness, we pop a pill at the first sign of a sniffle. Fevers, for example are best left untreated says Dr. Greene (ironically appropriate name, huh?). Using ibuprofen and other fever reducers only prolong the fever. But we’d rather feel better now, now, now.

It’s hard to step back and see the whole picture when you’re submerged in a quick-fix culture. The TIME article helps bring to light that sometimes it’s best to step back, take a breath and go through the RACE process before chopping down trees and calling it green.

Green tip #1
At the end of every post, I will share a green tip from my 365 Days of Green pull-away calendar. And this week, I’ve chosen this one:

“Hair dryers, phone chargers, TVs use energy for display clocks hairdryersand memory chips at all times. These energy drains account for five percent of total domestic energy consumption and send 18 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. Unplug them or connect them to a surge protector and just flip the switch.”


Entry filed under: cleaner fuels, green, public relations, strategic thinking. Tags: , , , , .

Community Relations in Tree City

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Holly Montjoy  |  October 24, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    Wow! I had no idea that my phone charger was doing so much damage! I’m TOTALLY unplugging that NOW and buying a surge protector!

  • 2. Jen Vu  |  October 24, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    I love the alternative perspective on clean fuel that you write about here: you are absolutely right in that we are quick to think of a ‘quick fix’ rather than take the time out to research what will be the best solution long term. I didn’t even realize that there were issues concerning corn as a fuel source! Great blog!

  • 3. brittanythoma13  |  October 24, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    Holly – It’s nice to know I’ve enlightened you to the green ways of the world.

    Jen – Ethanol is already an emergy source in many places, but it won’t last long. Thanks for popping into the conversation.

  • 4. Travis B  |  October 25, 2008 at 5:02 am

    Most environmentalist that are scientists know that ethanol is not the answer to our energy needs and that it is in fact a really bad strategy. In fact the amount of energy required to grow the corn used for ethanol (petroleum based fertilizers and pesticides, tractor fuel, etc.) is substantially more than the energy you get out of it. Another negative effect of converting corn to ethanol is that corn is a food source and it will drive up the cost of corn and other food commodities that use corn (i.e. corn meal, corn syrup, yeah everything). There are far better alternatives to produce ethanol than corn and soybeans, although many of them are still energy intensive. The only reason corn has become the answer recently is due to successful lobbying and I have to say it Brittney successful but ill advised PR campaigns. Brazil has been producing mass quantities of ethanol since the 1980s and actually mandated that all of their imported cars (including American brands Ford, GM, all of them) have flexfuel requirements so that they could run off gasoline or ethanol with no adjustments to be made by the consumer (such as hardware to be purchased, etc.) The only reason that we did not do so domestically was because there was no government mandate to do so and our domestic policies subsidized gasoline so that it has been increasingly cheaper over the past thirty years except for the past three or four. Yes although the price has increased, if you adjust for inflation and the increase in gas mileage that cars got it is cheaper per mile traveled in recent years than the past. Sorry to go on a tirade, but to conclude you are right in that any “green” change in our country has to start with us to make a demand for change domestically.

  • 5. brittanythoma13  |  October 28, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    I’m right there with you, Travis. Unfortunately, not all PR campaigns are for warm and fuzzy causes. But that’s life right? I completely agree with you, we (the country) need to start demanding new alternatives. Thanks for contributing to the conversation, Travis. It’s good to see how other’s view the issues I write about.

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I'm Brittany Thoma, PR pro-in-training. Living greener is my mission. I want to learn, inform and discuss topics cropping up in the green movement and how it relates to public relations.

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