For businesses operating in the oil & gas sector, maintaining a strong community presence and effectively engaging in important conversations is a vital component of any corporate marketing strategy, but how prepared is your business for a crisis?
Unfortunately, it’s likely not a matter of if, but when a crisis or communications challenge will occur – making it particularly important for businesses in the sector to be prepared for critical discussions.
In short, your business needs to be ready to respond quickly, effectively and transparently. And while you can’t control every aspect of a crisis, you can manage your message and the groundwork you’ve laid to stay prepared.
As a leading PR and Marketing Agency specializing in crisis communications, we’ve gathered some of our favourite strategies relevant for any businesses working in the energy sector.
1. Establish Effective Media Monitoring
Media monitoring allows you to ‘listen’ to what is being said about your brand, your competitors and your industry. Effective media monitoring is a vital component of any crisis communications strategy because:
- You stay aware of potential issues before they snowball into a crisis.
- When you’re aware of what might be heading your way, you give yourself valuable time to gather an informed response and a well-thought-out strategy.
2. Be Prepared to Respond Quickly
Some types of crises, however, will strike without warning. Unfortunately, if you cannot respond almost immediately, you risk having the public draw their own conclusions. As a common industry saying goes, ‘If you don’t tell your story, someone else will’. That’s why we recommend businesses:
- Maintain a comprehensive (and consistently updated) crisis communications plan. While it might feel strange to prepare so much for something you hope never happens, if it does, you will mitigate the potential damage more quickly and more effectively.
- Have a designated spokesperson and ensure that individual receives regular media training.
- Craft a template holding statement. A holding statement is a few brief sentences provided to the media immediately when a crisis has occurred. By avoiding the dreaded ‘no comment,’ you can keep the media from filling in the blanks with their own narrative.Read our blog for crafting Crisis Communications holding statements.
3. Understand Your Stakeholders
Your business needs to understand the concerns and interests of your communities and stakeholders, and build an effective communications strategy that speaks to their numerous points of view. When you do this effectively, you can:
- Build trust and buy-in.
- Understand your community’s needs and motivations, even before a crisis hits.
- Avoid appearing tone-deaf and losing potential allies or supporters, which would be likely to increase any damage done by a crisis exponentially.
4. Prioritize the Community
A guiding principle of any sound crisis communications strategy is always to centre the feelings and experiences of those who are most impacted by an event or situation. It is vital to:
- Engage with genuine concern, care and a heartfelt apology when appropriate.
- Demonstrate accountability and a commitment to making the situation right.
We’ve seen what happens when industry leaders fail to do so – the best example being comments made by BP CEO Tony Hayward after 11 people died following a drilling explosion off the Gulf of Mexico, spilling 3.19 million barrels of oil into the Gulf. BP came under widespread criticism for their handling of the crisis, first in how they downplayed it, and then in their CEO’s remark that ‘there’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I’d like my life back’.
BP’s handling of the crisis went down in history as an example of everything not to do when it comes to crisis communications. A mixture of a lack of transparency, lack of accountability and a failure to show genuine concern and care took a very bad situation and made it much worse.
5. Do Your Homework
If a crisis occurs, the spotlight will be on your company. If you’ve taken the time to build a positive community reputation and a comprehensive crisis communications plan, you’ll:
- Be prepared to respond quickly and effectively.
- Mitigate any potential damage.
- Control the message.
- Potentially even enhance your public image. You may have the opportunity to engage in an important conversation with the public that could end up being a blessing in disguise.
If you’re looking for support in crisis communications planning, media training or other marketing and public relations efforts, the experts at Alchemy Communications can work with your business so you’re prepared to weather the storm and maintain your relationships with your community.
Reach out to us today to get started!
5940 Macleod Trail SW – Suite 514
Macleod Place II Calgary, AB T2H 2G4