Norfolk Southern’s PR Campaign Targeting ‘Policymakers and Opinion Elites’
The railroad industry uses promises of “technology” and “innovation” to fight new safety regulations.
Yesterday The Guardian published my latest story: “‘Crafting an illusion’: US rail firms’ multimillion-dollar PR push.”
The article explores how Norfolk Southern—the company whose train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, earlier this month—and the Association of American Railroads, the industry’s powerful trade group, have spent millions of dollars on sophisticated public relations campaigns designed to influence federal policymakers and regulators.
Many of the campaigns seek to portray America’s biggest railroad operators as innovative and technologically savvy, “with the implication (and sometimes the explicit connection) that new safety requirements are unnecessary or even detrimental to those efforts.” For instance, the PR agency that produced Norfolk Southern’s “Reimagine Possible” campaign, which included the “Everyday Superheroes” video pictured at the top of this newsletter, said the effort was designed to “convince people they’re actually innovative.”
As the story concludes, “While there is little doubt that railroad companies are indeed investing in and implementing new technology, the industry appears determined to use the idea of technology—as well as the prospect of future technology—to defeat new safety requirements and regulations.”
You can read the full piece here: “‘Crafting an illusion’: US rail firms’ multimillion-dollar PR push.” Thanks as always to The Guardian’s Dominic Rushe.