Whether it is an independent odor monitor or a credible publication, third-party validation of your facts can be a critical key in managing an issue or telling your story.
If you face a dispute over your claims, trying to talk louder than your critics won't cut it. Your opponents will win that game. However, you can claim the high ground by generating independent facts that substantiate what you say.
A good example is the decision by Washington County to retain an odor consultant to monitor emissions from Recology's controversial compost yard next to North Plains. Recology has routinely taken odor measurements on or around its composting facility, but those results get buried by waves of neighbor complaints — even if some of the complaints are part of a campaign to get rid of the composting yard.
Third-party data from an independent source doesn't guarantee success, but it can move the conversation to a different, more fact-based plane. The discussion is no longer about how many complaints have been filed but on what measurements say about the intensity and quality of the odors.
It is wrong to think of credible third parties as only technical consultants. Highly respected publications can provide third-party testimonials by covering your story.
Damaso Rodriguez, incoming artistic director at the Portland-based Artists Repertory Theatre, recalled for a group of supporters this week how his edgy theater startup in Chicago became a hot ticket because of a favorable review in the Chicago Tribune. “We were a new theater and this was our first play," Rodriguez said, "but after the review we never had to worry about filling all our seats."
Rodriguez repeated his marketing feat when his Chicago theater troupe moved to Pasadena and set up shop in free space that formerly was a loading dock. His story about Furious Theatre attracted the interest of the Los Angeles Times that gave a reporter more than a week to tag along with Rodriguez and his troupe members as they painted and created the stage for their first play. The feature story in the Times assured the fledging theater company an audience in a market with 1,000 playhouses and a laid-back audience.
Getting your story placed in the right publication plays a significant role in conveying your key message. The Watershed Management Department of Clean Water Services is well respected for its innovative, gainful program to plant native trees and shrubs to shade and cool water, rather than place expensive, energy-guzzling chillers on the outfalls of traditional wastewater treatment plants. What better recruitment tool could there be than an article or editorial praising the program in a publication read by farmers?
As people become more skeptical of self-serving claims, third-party validation is taking on greater importance. To work, the validation must have credibility with the audience you are trying to impress or influence. And the validation must speak directly to the issue or issues you are facing.
Don't shy away from third-party validation because it may not back you up 100 percent. If it validates most of what you claim or are doing, accept that. And if it describes areas of improvement, embrace those.
When angry neighbors or organized opponents threaten your project, think about third-party validation. It may be the only way to change the game so you can win.