We need to talk about oil and gas

We’re living in a world where, as the 1960s pop artist Andy Warhol predicted, we can all have our 15 minutes of fame. The ability to reach a mass audience has become as easy as posting a catchy TikTok video.

“In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes.” Andy Warhol

But, in a world where it’s easy for anyone to reach a mass audience, it’s also easy to be ignored, especially if communicating isn’t a priority. The result is that critics will fill this space, many of whom are good at making a powerful impression, even on oil executives.

The result is tangible. Behrooz Fattahi, 2010 SPE President and now an SPE Distinguished Lecturer, says the industry’s desire to stay out of the news has “allowed other people to misrepresent us using incorrect data.”

However, over the past 12 months, the pandemic has changed things. Who people trust, where they go for news, and therefore what they think and how they feel has changed.

According to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, a global assessment of levels of trust, business has emerged as the most trusted institution, surpassing governments, NGOs and the media. Furthermore, business is seen as the only institution being both ethical and competent. Trust in the energy sector is slightly lower than in business in average, but increased over the past 10 years.
The Edelman Barometer also tells us that people trust search engines and their employers over the mass media as sources of news.
This situation presents the oil and gas industry with a window of opportunity.

Climate change, poverty, healthcare and education system remain top concerns for the public. We need to make sure our communications have clear messages on affordable energy, how we are helping to fight climate change and our contributions towards the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

At IOGP, we are playing our part too. First, we’re providing our Members, as trusted businesses and employers, with messages and material that they can share with their employees. Enabling employees to disseminate the industry narrative among their own networks creates a great communications channel. Peer-to-peer networks remain one of the strongest methods of communication. We should not underestimate this – or be surprised if a void is filled by other voices.

Second, search engines are often the public’s first source for information. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, they’re the most trusted source of news and information. That’s why we’re focusing on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to make sure that people looking for information about oil and gas and our industry find what we have to say about it. This is a key part of the IOGP website relaunch we’re currently working on. This includes developing digital and social media content and resources, from videos and infographics to dedicated webpages for specific topics.

Third, we’re broadening the number of channels and tools we use to communicate, including investing in webinars technology, as well as by working with other groups, to reinforce and share our messages. It’s non-stop. Our Strategic Communications Panel is busy working on new and better ways to share our messages and will continue to do so.

Fourth, we’re investing in and supporting our staff. That includes providing training and support on media interviews, keynote speeches, presentations, panel debate techniques, and social media. It’s not just a job for the communications department – we all have a role.

Nick Tennent, IOGP Graphic Designer

We’re also upskilling our staff, enabling them to respond to developments in communications technology.  For example, Nick Tennent, IOGP’s graphic designer, has added animation and video production to his skillset. “Coming from a print-based design background, the training has meant I can keep up with the growing demand for animation and video content,” he says.

“Humans process visual data more easily. A combination of words and images have proven to be a more effective teaching tool than words alone. If you want to improve brand recognition, retention of a message, or simplify a complex topic, visual content will always prove essential.

“ For IOGP, it means we can communicate our messages more clearly, whether that’s for new reports, data highlights or animated infographics that communicate the role of oil and gas in the world.”

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