March 3, 2016

Does communications offer a way out of the storm for the energy industry?


It is turning out to be the new normal.

At some point I am sure we thought the oil plunge might be short-lived. But the low oil price over a prolonged period of time has led to a significant reset when it comes to the energy sector.

But, from a communications perspective, the challenges energy companies face is anything but normal. If anything, the communications environment is more challenging than ever.

The energy sector finds itself mired in a perfect storm. The stubbornly low oil price is just part of the story – alongside a maelstrom of scrutiny from consumers, regulators, activist investors, NGOs and policymakers.

As budgets are squeezed, companies quite rightly look at where savings can be made. In the eyes of some CFOs, marketing and communications are prime candidates for having their budgets pruned. As spending is rigorously examined, communications finds itself in the firing line – the question posed is simply, “where’s the value in communications?”

But, in my view, while there can be efficiencies there can also be false economies.

Energy companies are facing complex reputational challenges that are multi-faceted. As a result, the communications campaigns run for energy companies involve many specialisms and each has its part to play in developing a compelling case for the business it represents, be it for investors, consumers, businesses or regulators. And each has its role in delivering business success.

For example, it is crucial that financial communicators show a well argued, robust and persuasive investment case for energy companies. When markets are jittery, investor relations is more important than ever.

Similarly, employee engagement teams need to demonstrate the importance of keeping staff engaged in the face of potential redundancies, salary freezes – and the turmoil and low morale that so often accompanies this. The costs of losing your best staff are well-known; engagement and internal communications is an important part of retaining the best talent.

With energy companies living in tricky times, communicators must show how they can help these businesses now more than ever. The key here is combining the art of storytelling, with the science of targeting – ensuring investment dollars have maximum and measurable impact.

Energy communications professionals are dedicated to building and defending businesses’ reputations, to demonstrate a company’s potential and its successes.

So communications in the sector has to become a lot smarter in articulating how communications can create, enhance and often protect business value.

The new normal may also be a more effective and a more compelling normal.

To explore the multiple challenges facing the UK energy industry in more depth and hear from the likes of former Energy Minister, Rt Hon Charles Hendry, Lawrence Slade, Sir John Baker CBE and other industry experts, join us for our upcoming event, A crude awakening: is uncertainty hampering UK energy investment?’.