The newspaper headline simply said the “First Nestle Meeting Was Rocky,” but what the reporter describes sounds sounds like a near-death experience for Nestle’s Kearns & West facilitator – the firm hired to facilitate Nestle’s series of public meetings in McCloud:
The meeting, put on by Nestle and facilitated by Kearns & West, a California public relations company hired by Nestle to mediate and negotiate dialogue within the McCloud community about the contentious proposed bottling plant, saw a turnout of close to 150 people, many of whom were hoping the forum would live up to its billing as a chance for both sides of the issue to meet and work toward “mutual goals.”
But a weak effort at publicizing the meeting by Kearns & West in the days and weeks leading up to the event set the stage for those already distrustful of Nestle to come to the high school on the defensive.
Though Kearns & West, which bills itself as “a neutral third party,” had ample time to disseminate information about the meeting to the McCloud community, the company clearly failed on this front. A newspaper announcement the day of the event, coupled with Kearns & West’s last minute distribution of a letter inviting community members to the meeting, saw a number of the principle opposition voices miss the meeting altogether [ed: my emphasis].
Added to this was a lack of sufficient programs for the large turnout, poor acoustics in the gymnasium, and an equally poor presentation by Kearns & West’s facilitator Bill Pistor. Charged with moderating a meeting whose goals never became clear, Pistor spent nearly 20 minutes apologizing for the late publicity of the event, followed by another half an hour rehashing the familiar history of the Nestle issue.
Pistor spoke, often wholly inaudibly, while seated beside his projector until frustrated members of the audience called on him to stand and speak clearly into the microphone. His attempt to describe Kearns & West’s effort to gather information from a cross-section of the McCloud community was lost when audience members began to badger him about his ineffectual presentation style.
As Pistor again explained to the agitated audience that Kearns & West, though contracted by Nestle, was not a Nestle representative, Claudia Ellis of McCloud’s Brown Dog Gallery said from the back of the audience, “Your voice is so monotone. We can’t understand what you are saying. Nestle is one of the biggest conglomerates in the world. If this is the best that Nestle can do, this is awful.”
Frankly, it gets worse for Nestle, and in another post, we’re going to look at the two disturbing (if you’re Nestle) trends that emerged from the meeting.
First, the mistrust of the Swiss multinationals corporation in the town is running at an alltime high; according to the article, 80% of the attendees spoke out against Nestle, with only 20% speaking favorably of the big corporation.
Second, several speakers at the meeting cited what amounts to “Nestle fatigue,” saying the town doesn’t want to be confronted by this issue right away, and wanted the multinational to go away for a couple years.
Nestle, of course, is trapped between its “good neighbor” rhetoric and its desire to get its water bottling plant online as soon as possible, and what remains to be seen is how quickly the McCloud Services District (MCSD) launches back into negotiations with Nestle when so much of the town clearly wants anything but.
There is a lot happeing right now in McCloud around the Nestle issue, so expect a lot of posts on the topic. In the meantime, the reporter’s article offers ample fodder for comments, and interested parties should feel free to leave comments both here and on the newspaper’s site.
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