Energy sector comms professionals are feeling the weight of the media spotlight more than ever as 2022 shapes up to be a defining moment in energy history. Despite the seemingly endless challenges facing the sector, we believe that this era of change presents a huge opportunity for you as comms professionals.
Ok, it might not feel that way right now – but stay with us and we’ll explain why!
In this three-part blog series we’ll examine some of the biggest reputation management and comms challenges you’re facing or will face over the coming months and years. And we’ll show you how you can respond to these proactively and reactively to ensure that your brand not only stands the test of time, but comes out on top.
In the first part of this series, we’re focusing on how you can best manage your reputation and communications during a time of change. Let’s dive in!
The bread and butter of reputation management
In the words of the Sage of Omaha: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
For Warren Buffett, reputation starts with integrity. That’s a good start – it shows that the responsibility is on the organisation to behave in a certain way to build trust and loyalty. But as communicators we’re in the business of protecting reputations, so what does this mean for us?
The general consensus is that if you build up a strong buffer of goodwill, through years of good service and looking after your customers and employees, then when the going gets tough, your customers will be more understanding. While this is generally true, some sections of the energy market suffer from a lack of brand differentiation – there’s little clarity around what makes one company different from the next. This creates a transactional, price-led relationship between suppliers and their customers – not an emotional one, meaning there is no buffer of trust and reputation to fall back on.
Recently the CEO of Centrica was quoted saying that hitting oil and gas producers with a windfall tax would be akin to “burning the furniture to stay warm”. This comment, although perhaps backed up by solid economic logic, lacked both compassion towards struggling customers and awareness that shareholders are not the only important people listening – something the media was quick to jump on.
So, how do you actively build your reputation when you don’t have much goodwill in the bank?
First of all, consider that your reputation is made up of the thoughts and feelings others have about you. Then take into account that the media – whether print, broadcast or online – has a huge influence on shaping that.
But, in regulated markets, such as energy, you need to go beyond the media and consider what your paying customers think of you, as well as your shareholders, your industry regulator, politicians, influencers, and civic society. Understanding the thoughts and feelings towards your company of all of these stakeholder groups, in real-time, is what builds a true and current, holistic view of how your earned and owned media is impacting your overall reputation. Equipped with this knowledge you can respond, adapt and plan in the most informed way.
So, how can you best manage your reputation during a time of change?
As comms professionals, it’s vital to track mainstream and social media across local, regional and international geographies to understand how your brand – and your competitors – are performing across public channels in real-time. Once you have a clear view of what’s driving positive and negative sentiment, you’ll be better equipped to quickly identify important issues and successfully course correct.
For example, if your company is facing a brewing storm, being able to anticipate how different earned and owned media will influence stakeholders’ reactions could significantly enhance the effectiveness of your reputation management capabilities. The mechanisms are relatively straightforward, but combined they can deliver powerful, actionable insight.
Around one third of our clients at Onclusive use comprehensive media analysis insights to get a clear idea of how well their messages are landing, identify the content that is delivering the most value and the key drivers of sentiment and to understand how well they’re doing in different sectors of the media. This gives them the intelligence they need to understand what’s working and where they need to invest more communications time and energy.
How Onclusive can help
Find out more on our website for details of how we help clients listen to their worlds and protect their brands.
We’ll be back soon with part two where we’ll be discussing the transition to Net Zero and the reputational risks and opportunities this brings.