It’s no secret that in many aspects, trust in institutions has degraded significantly in recent years.
While many factors are contributing to the decline of trust, complex issues, the spread of misinformation and social media echo chambers have all made building (and maintaining) trust more difficult than ever.
While trust is mission-critical for any business, for the energy sector, declining public trust has had perhaps an even more significant impact, threatening the very social licence the industry needs to operate.
Trust isn’t built through communications alone, but there is no question that the industry has struggled to convey the ways in which it is facing environmental and social sustainability head-on. Without great communications (i.e. great story-telling), any efforts at progress are easily drowned out by the white noise of distrust.
More than ever, businesses must get their messaging crystal clear, and their words must match their actions if they hope to be seen as trustworthy in the public eye.
Let’s take a look at some of the opportunities the industry has to build trust in ways that are authentic and deserved.
1. Transparency Will be Necessary
Let’s be clear – how the industry chooses to talk about the coming energy transition will determine if they are trusted at all.
Transparency is the foundation of trust, and without it, trust cannot exist. This doesn’t mean disclosing sensitive business information but rather demonstrating a willingness to be open, candid and frank about the issues the industry is facing – and what is being done to address them.
Even if the industry is making exceptional efforts to develop resources in responsible ways, if communications aren’t rooted in transparency, including welcoming discussions with dissenting voices, it is unlikely those efforts will be seen as genuine or trustworthy.
2. Industry Leadership Will be Paramount
More than ever, consumers understand (and expect) business to lead the way when it comes to social and environmental responsibility.
The energy industry can and should play an important role in cleaner energy solutions and transitioning the way we meet our energy needs. With considerable knowledge, infrastructure and expertise, the sector has much to offer.
Leaders who are able to re-frame the story of the industry in a way that can demonstrate meaningful action in protecting the environment and creating important economic opportunities, especially for communities where opportunities have been scarce, will win trust.
The energy industry has an important opportunity to lead positive change on a local, national and international level. If it can embrace this, it can win back trust.
3. The Sector Must Change the Story
Without a compelling narrative about the industry’s role in environmental responsibility and the coming energy transition, widespread trust and buy-in are unlikely to be achieved.
Good story-telling is also about listening to the concerns of people and communities. Changing the story to demonstrate adaptability and a willingness to take on a bold new vision for the future will inspire far greater confidence and trust from stakeholders and the public. The story needs to be clear, compelling, inclusive, consistent and rooted in action.
A transition in how we meet our energy needs is coming. How the industry chooses to talk about these changes and adapt to them will determine how well they are trusted.
Alchemy Communications specializes in strategic marketing and communications for businesses across sectors. We support companies seeking to improve trust and build relationships with stakeholders and communities.
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