Saturday, July 08, 2006

The communication battle over nanotech: Business, media, and interest groups get ready for round 1

While scientists and outreach specialists still frown at the idea of strategic communication and understanding the often value-based and emotionally driven dynamics surrounding public opinion on nanotechnology, companies and interest groups are preparing for an elaborate communication battle with a largely informed and uninterested public.

And industry consultants and journalists are beginning to outline the broad parameters of that battle. Sam Jaffe writes in Wired Magazine:

“A little bad PR can go a long way toward destroying the public's confidence in a product, especially when it comes to potential damage to human health -- just ask Monsanto. Whether it was fair, GMO became a dirty word, and if the nanotech industry isn't careful its products could suffer the same fate.

A study released by Lux Research in late June advised companies with nanotech offerings to be alert not only to real risks, but also to perceived risks that could undermine consumer acceptance of their products, even if they pose no actual danger.”
(Click here for the full article.)

The Lux Research report Jaffe is referring to, came out late last month. Here is one a short summary of the key points from Laser Focus World magazine:

“On perceptual risks, the public's outlook on nanotech remains positive despite a lack of knowledge, but press coverage and agitation from NGOs mean that firms won't be able to dodge these questions much longer. Instead of remaining silent, companies need a communications strategy to share their safety studies, collaborate with trusted partners, and explain the benefits nanotech can bring.”
(Click here for the full article.)