The Lake Source Cooling campaign became a textbook example in Public Relations Writing Principles in Practice by Donald and Jill Tredwell (Sage 2003)

A Natural

Lake Source Cooling

Substituting a naturally renewable resource for fossil fuels was a winning idea, yet Cornell’s Lake Source Cooling had a controversial aspect. Using the chill of Cayuga Lake to cool the campus meant using a revered icon. The evidence was firm: no harm would come to the lake.

Our surveys found that the more residents learned about the idea the better they liked it, but we also detected high levels of skepticism and suspicion. We produced school and museum exhibits to illustrate the science of heat transfer, prepared project manager Lanny Joyce for dozens of local meetings, kept the extensive federal and state permitting process as transparent as possible, distributed an advertorial to 50,000 households, orchestrated media coverage, and produced two videos.

Fierce community resistance arose, buttressed by a web site and ubiquitous “Save the Lake” stickers, but the equity we amassed in communicating the benefits of the project won the day. Today Lake Source Cooling operates safely and efficientlys. It has won every award in its field. “We got out front and stayed there,” Joyce says. “That was the key.”

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