Throughout this series, we’ve explored the reputational challenges currently facing the energy sector to demonstrate why now, more than ever, it’s crucial that you as comms professionals in this industry deliver effective and robust reputation management. In the final part of this series, we’ve used our insights and analysis to share some key learnings and recommendations on how to build an effective reputation management strategy during times of scrutiny. So, let’s take a look.
Have you downloaded our ‘Energy Sector in Focus’ whitepaper? Download here
The power of a human face
Soaring energy prices and tightening budgets have put consumers on edge. With the UK energy price cap set to rise again this Autumn, you’ll know only too well that energy providers are preparing to navigate choppy waters.
When the cap rose in April this year, unsurprisingly the spotlight turned to suppliers. However, the majority of big players stayed quiet whilst the media and public sought answers and leadership. At a time when their customers needed reassurance and support, most suppliers buried their heads in the sand.
Despite the media’s overall negative coverage of the price hike story, every company secured some favourable coverage, as our bespoke media analysis revealed. This focused mostly on the advice energy suppliers offered their customers about ways to reduce consumption and their energy bills.
When the price hike story landed and the media feeding frenzy began, instead of receiving harsh criticism, Octopus Energy benefitted from the greatest share of positive coverage (at 45%) across the media. Crafting a story with empathy for their customers paid dividends for this brand.
How did they achieve that? Octopus struck an empathetic, reassuring and practical tone in their consumer-facing communications which paid dividends during hard and worrying times. You can read more about this inside the full whitepaper.
With further hardship on the horizon for households across the UK, energy suppliers need to learn from this and get their messaging right if they are to avoid reputational damage as winter draws closer. Here’s what your comms teams need to bear in mind:
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
Being ready to deploy reputation management tools and strategies at any moment is key to effective communications. Although there’s no way to know exactly what the future will hold, as a comms professionals, you need to be equipped to anticipate reputational challenges before they arise to prepare for any eventuality.
Between January and June 2022, at least 681 major events and announcements occurred in the energy sector across the UK and Ireland, according to Onclusive’s Forward Planning service, which covers statistics announcements, reports, appointments, parliamentary events and trade conferences & exhibitions, each with the potential to have a reputational impact. And in each lies a potential advantage – a chance to meaningfully cut through the noise.
But, the key to good planning doesn’t just sit in the future, it’s also there in the past. Understanding what has resonated well and what has caused upset is key when planning for future scenarios. Nowhere more so than in an industry that is only set to experience more scrutiny.
Know your audience
Octopus Energy was able to attract praise and positive feedback from their customers during the price cap rise to the human face and empathy that their communications strategy brought them. But achieving this relies heavily on understanding how the story you put out will resonate with all of your stakeholders. Ultimately, how your message will land with a mature, long-term customer will be different to how it lands with a younger audience, meaning considering stakeholder differences is crucial to reputational success.
So, stakeholder mapping is a must – as a communicator you need to know who your audiences are, where they are and what they care about. This doesn’t mean telling customers what they want to hear, it’s about being prepared to speak from all angles and having a message for all scenarios, whether this be a position on climate change, energy security or efficiency and growth.
And Onclusive is here to help – by segmenting content based on who is speaking, and who is listening, we enable comms professionals to break away from the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.
Harness the power of media monitoring
Now more than ever, energy companies must keep their ear to the ground. At a time of intense scrutiny, you and your team need to be tactical and reactive, which means knowing what is being said in real time and what’s coming down the tracks.
While traditional media is a primary conduit to stakeholders and customers, social media is an ever evolving and growing landscape with multiple touchpoints. As a result, rigorous, detailed media monitoring and social listening is a must. Monitoring coverage, measuring social metrics across all platforms and analysing messaging performance is no longer a luxury, it’s an essential tool to protect corporate reputations as pressure on the industry grows.
Thanks for tuning into our blog series. For more insights, you can find our Energy in Focus: Delivering Effective Communications and Robust Reputation Management in an Era of Generational Change here.