Case Study: McKnight Foundation

Overcoming Misinformation: Elevating Shared Values and Narratives in Minnesota’s Clean Energy Transition

Transforming local narratives and engaging in real conversations about the benefits of clean energy within Minnesota communities.

Services: Creative Communications, Strategy & Planning

Something wasn’t adding up in Minnesota.

Around 65 percent of the state supported clean energy. It was also home to 50,000+, well-paying, clean energy jobs that sustained local families and kept farmers on their land.

Yet, local opposition groups were holding up transmission lines, wind farms and solar fields. The voices of local families, business owners and farmers who benefitted from clean energy investments were getting lost in emotionally charged debates. And, political strategists were sowing fear of clean energy via local media and social media.

Seiche initiated a partnership with the McKnight Foundation and the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) to launch a collaborative project called The Power of Minnesota to transform local narratives and help Minnesotans engage in real conversations about the benefits of clean energy within their communities.

The number and quality of conversations that The Power of Minnesota has inspired through the visually stunning and well crafted stories has been unlike anything we’ve ever been able to achieve with other storytelling efforts and events. It’s been truly next level in its ability to bring people together, build knowledge and understanding and build support and action for clean energy in Minnesota.

Dan Thiede — Senior Communications Manager, McKnight Foundation (previously, Strategic and Engagement Director, CERTs)


What We Did

To counteract harmful and misleading narratives, we needed to do more than just temporarily shift a policy debate. We needed to get at the root and change the conversation about our collective future. Culture, rooted in values and ideologies, shapes our political landscapes. We needed to make the clean energy transition something to be excited about, not feared.

Listening, Deeply, to Understand Values

Seiche combed through years of media coverage and social media conversations on Minnesota’s clean energy sector, including an audience analysis.

  • We recognized that those in the “persuadable middle” – political moderates who believed in human-caused climate change – were our best prospect for a shift in attitudes toward clean energy.
  • We learned that Minnesota audiences would respond to appeals based on stewardship, responsibility, opportunity and innovation, as well as “the Minnesota Way,” a local tradition of pulling together with neighbors to build, problem-solve and prosper.

Combining Storytelling, Digital Engagement and Community Organizing

Our strategy focused on nurturing public interest favorable toward clean energy. It required us to find, compose, and deliver compelling stories, online and offline, across every corner of the state with authenticity and heart.

  • We conceived an overarching campaign, The Power of Minnesota, and pulled together key partners to bring it to life.
  • With the help of CERTs, we focused on 26 individuals with personal stories to tell about clean energy. We spoke to a farmer who had profited from installing wind turbines on his land. A worker who had found employment installing solar panels on rooftops. Members of indigenous and arts groups powering buildings sustainably.
  • By showing how clean energy is already embedded in local communities, and presenting Minnesota as a leader in this realm, we’d stir a sense of homegrown pride and connection.

Leveraging Local and Digital Media

Seiche produced a documentary film, companion content and a multi-channel distribution strategy. Through earned media, digital media and community-based promotions, we reached hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans.

  • The full-length documentary aired on multiple local TV networks, as well as at six in-person screenings hosted across the state. Local television, print, and radio outlets also covered the screenings.
  • At the well-attended Power of Minnesota screenings, 76% of respondents reported increased knowledge and greater connection to the issue of clean energy.
  • To reach digital-first audiences and amplify positive conversations, we created a website and social media presence, using paid social media advertising to drive audiences to the site and screenings.

Seiche brings a great deal of expertise to the table with regards to communications and campaign strategy, assembling top talent and nurturing high-quality content and planning and conducting digital promotion.

Dan Thiede


Too often advocates rely on statistics to change minds and miss the important work of telling stories that change hearts. Hearing about one person who got a clean energy job is far more powerful than abstract details about 50,000 clean-energy jobs. Seiche centered people throughout this process and made their experiences real to audiences across Minnesota – this narrative strategy was a stepping stone to deep community organizing, which requires connection, trust, open conversation aand consensus-building. There’s no one I trust more than Seiche to do that work well.

Aimee Witteman — Vice President of Investment, Rewiring America (previously, Program Director of the Midwest Climate and Energy Program, McKnight Foundation)


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