DCF Show: Data Center PR Practice Fosters Coalitions, Community Outreach to Reduce Development Backlash

March 5, 2024
The DCF Show podcast sits down with Milldam Public Relations' President and Founder Adam Waitkunas to discuss his firm's newly launched community relations service exclusively serving the data center space.

This January, Milldam Public Relations announced the launch of its Data Center Community Relations Service, which the company's President and Founder Adam Waitkunas claims is the first community relations service exclusively serving the data center space and the digital infrastructure sector. 

In addition to tailormade communication strategies, Adam contends that data center community relations will require coalition building and garnering influence with local officials and stakeholders. He says the new service has been launched in response to the recent widespread backlash to data center development and the lack of tools to combat this within the data center industry. 

Personally overseeing the new service offering, Adam is a public relations professional with nearly twenty years of data center industry experience and a background in politics and public affairs, including extensive experience in media relations, marketing strategy, business development and strategic partnerships. 

Prior to founding Milldam Public Relations in 2005, Adam was the manager of Doug Stevenson's 14th Middlesex District State Representative campaign, which set a record for fundraising for a challenger in a Massachusetts State Representative race.

Concord, Massachusetts-based Milldam Public Relations is a full-service public relations firm that provides competitively priced strategic communications, media-relations and event management to a diverse array of clients throughout the country. 

The firm has solidified its position as the go-to public relations firm for companies in the critical infrastructure space. Clients from Boston to Los Angeles include: The Association of Information Technology Professionals-Los Angeles, OpTerra Energy Services, The Critical Facilities Summit, Hurricane Electric, Instor Solutions, Inc., and RF Code.

Under Adam's direction, Milldam has helped technology clients across the country secure articles in publications such as: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CFO Magazine, Data Center Knowledge, Green Tech Media, The Boston Business Journal, Mission Critical Magazine, The Silicon Valley Business Journal and Capacity Magazine, among others. 

Additionally, in his career Adam has helped businesses become thought leaders in their fields and a valued resource for industry-specific media, helping them to increase sales, promote awareness and become attractive targets for M&A. 

 

Data Center Community Relations Service

The new service is premised on the reality that, for many years, the data center industry has frequently operated under the radar, but has become more visible within the last few years. Certain communities throughout North America have taken notice and have started pushing back municipally against proposed developments, most notably in Virginia and Arizona. 

For example, in recent months, a number of Virginia environmental groups formed a coalition calling s for more oversight of the data center industry. And in January, King George County, Virginia officials voted to renegotiate a prior agreement for a large cloud provider's $6B Virginia data center campus.  The reversal is partly due to growing local political opposition to data center development.

With the launch of Milldam's Data Center Community Relations Service, Waitkunas contends that the digital infrastructure sector now has access to an offering that will equip them with the tools necessary to articulate the benefits of data centers to the local community while proactively addressing local concerns such as traffic infrastructure management and noise, helping to ensure a smoother path to success for the development. 

Critical infrastructure plays a predominant role in most people's daily lives throughout North America, driving the need for data center operators. Waitkunas points out that strong community engagement is essential for data centers to properly communicate their value and successfully navigate the complexity of community relations. 

To help data center developers achieve their goals, Milldam's community relations practice offers the following services: 

•    Establishing partnerships with third-party organizations such as Chambers of Commerce.
•    Communicating the numerous benefits of data centers in the community, including economic development, infrastructure improvements, and job creation.
•    Developing and providing key talking points.
•    Ensuring that local decision-makers hear the client's messages.
•    Implementing a wide variety of grassroots campaigns and community outreach. 
•    Enabling local supporters to serve as ambassadors and equipping them with the tools to communicate the benefits of proposed developments. 
•    Building coalitions.
•    Garnering the pulse of public opinion.

"If the industry fails to properly engage with localities, years of industry progress will be in jeopardy," said Waitkunas. "It's imperative that developers and operators implement community relations to help ensure a seamless development process."

Here's a timeline of key discussion points on the podcast:

2:35 - Adam explains that the idea for the practice came from his background in public affairs and politics, and that it involves building coalitions and partnerships with third party organizations to help data centers overcome obstacles they face when moving into suburban areas.

4:41 - Adam discusses the importance of having individual community members form coalitions with data center developers to speak on their behalf and push issues forward.

8:09 - Adam reveals that the firm is currently working with two developers and has proposals out to other organizations since launching the practice in mid-January.

9:16 - On the importance of timing in getting ahead of community concerns and identifying cheerleaders for data center projects.

10:37 - The PR practice wants the local community to be the main cheerleader for data center projects and will help manage the coalition.

13:01 - Adam notes there is still a lot of community education needed on data centers regarding the ins and outs of countering noise and environmental concerns.

15:10 - Adam explains how the PR practice has been doing outreach to large players in the data center industry and tailoring campaigns for each community's concerns.

23:18 - On the necessity for developers to put together community relations plans and crisis communications plans for their data center projects.

Here are links to some related DCF articles:

 

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About the Author

Matt Vincent

A B2B technology journalist and editor with more than two decades of experience, Matt Vincent is Editor in Chief of Data Center Frontier.

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