Shaping Perceptions: The Data Centre Industry’s PR Battle

As the world grows increasingly reliant on digital infrastructure, the data centre industry finds itself at the forefront of public scrutiny. From concerns about energy consumption to misconceptions about their operations, data centres face a constant battle for positive perception. In an era where information is king, shaping public opinion is crucial. But are data centres losing the PR battle? And why does it matter, especially for the youth who are the future stakeholders in this digital age?

At the recent Data Centre World (DCW) Panel, industry experts gathered to address these pressing questions. Susan Anderton, Founder of The Brand Marquee, emphasized the need for a collaborative approach to shape public perception, highlighting the role of media messaging, public perception, and influencing policymakers and planners.

Media Messaging: Are Data Centres Getting a Fair Shake?

There’s a disparity between coverage in traditional trade press versus consumer media. While there has been positive coverage, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic when data centres were praised for their critical role, negative narratives persist. Concerns about energy consumption, water usage, and environmental impact dominate headlines, shaping public perception.

The lack of a coherent narrative and collaborative approach hampers efforts to counter negative press. There is a growing need for transparency, integrity, and a unified vision to engage stakeholders effectively. Without factual information and concerted efforts to change the narrative, misconceptions persist, hindering the industry’s progress.

Public Perception: Bridging the Gap with Transparency and Education

Understanding public perception is essential for attracting talent and garnering support.

At Kickstart Europe, a member of the Google HR team mentioned that during their perception research with new recruits, there was a perception that data centres were dark, dingy places with no windows or natural sunlight.

In preparation for the DCW 24 panel talk, Susan conducted her own short poll amongst young people, ages 14-28, to discover their perceptions of a data centre. She asked three questions – what does a data centre look like inside, what do they do and what value do they bring?

The answer to the first question was encouraging:

  • ‘Loads of computers, storage room, IT equipment everywhere!’
  • ‘A room full of computers (not the monitors!)’
  • ‘Flashing blue lights from computers connected with lots of wires’

When it came to understanding what it did and what it did for them. The knowledge was limited.

“Does it host my iCloud photos?”, “Is it keeping websites live?”, “I have absolutely no idea how it impacts me!”.

Education is crucial to the future of these critical facilities, but it also suggests that the younger audience isn’t consuming the negative press on data centres, which poses an opportunity for accurate, impartial education.

Why Does It Matter?

Engaging with communities through school tours, educational resources, and community days or charity initiatives are examples of activities that can bridge the gap and harness goodwill. By making data centres more relatable and showcasing their value, the industry can cultivate a positive image among the public.

Positive public perception is essential for securing planning approvals, attracting talent, and encouraging continuous innovation. By working together and embracing transparency, the industry can overcome challenges and pave the way for sustainable growth.

By addressing misconceptions, engaging with stakeholders, and advocating for change, the industry can shape a more positive narrative and secure its place in the digital economy.

Let’s create the narrative together …

As Steve Jobs famously said,

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that do.”

It’s time for the data centre industry to embrace that mindset and drive positive change for generations to come.