The leaked slides were prepared by Edelman, the largest PR company in the world, at the behest of Transcanada, and they constitute a blueprint for tracking and influencing platform that spies on its participants in order to psychologically profile them and nudge them into becoming advocates for the oil industry.
Edelman's "Digital Grassroots Advocacy Implementation Plan" and "Grassroots Mobilization Program" are built around an action center called action.energyeastpipeline.com (this site is live now, and is run by Transcanada). The site rallies people who are sympathetic to the oil industry's cause -- construction workers who might get jobs on a pipeline, for example -- drawing them in with targeted search and social media ads, downplaying its relationship to the oil industry.
Then it uses a technology called "Multiplier" that runs on Salesforce's CRM software to profile and surveil these "citizen activists" and track whether they comply with the tasks it assigns them, "progressing" them into becoming "true champions" of oil pipelines.
This toolchain is not unique to Transcanada, either -- the slide-deck identifies "Companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, and Haliburton" that have "made key investments in building permanent advocacy assets and programs to support their lobbying, outreach, and policy efforts."
It's basically The Doubt Factory, brought to life:
Even those converted champions that perform up to Edelman’s standards would be tracked, too, however. “Every grassroots advocate record will be tagged and tracked based on how/where they were recruited, which message stream they responded to and how they perform over time," the report states. "These metrics will enable us both to tailor outbound communications to user preferences and to enhance future recruitment efforts.”
The world’s biggest PR company has, in other words, outlined, in great detail, how it anticipates targeting everyday citizens and convincing them to become pro-oil support troops, and how it intends to collect data on those aren’t quite ready to rally to the cause and how to push them over the edge. It is collecting a trove of data on citizens to better “convert” future supporters into “advocates,” even “champions.”
“We've never seen something with quite this level of depth before,” Floegal said. “We've got the whole playbook.”
But Edelman wants its converts on the cheap, too. That’s why it focuses its efforts online in the first place.
“Our key metric of success is the cost per acquisition (CPA) of a new grassroots advocate,” the May 20 document reads. “Historically, online acquisition techniques—including microtargeted online advertising, email list rental, newsletter inserts, social media advertising and direct partnerships (blogs, communities, aligned organizations)—have proven to be the most effective.”
The Program Big Oil's PR Firm Uses to 'Convert Average Citizens' [Brian Merchant/Vice]