Building Community Trust: One Thing Your Oil & Gas Company Can Do Today

by Anne Carto

Three weeks ago, our daily lives were already consumed by instantaneous information through news, social media, and texting.  Today, your community stakeholders have twice as much news, it’s all scary, and they have no idea where your operations fit in. If they don’t know, they will be worried.

In this new, stay-at-home COVID-19 world, many of us are clinging to our phones, wondering what the latest policy development is or how Karen down the street is faring with homeschooling three kids.  We are seeing rumors about who is mandated to stay at home, what the latest trajectory of new cases means to public health, and who might be the latest celebrity to test positive. 

For oil and gas companies, this means your stakeholders are also consuming mass amounts of quickly evolving information.  The latest mandate from the leaders in your operating jurisdiction is on their radar and they may be wondering what that means for the oil and gas facility near their home. Is it being monitored? Are operations safe?  They might see a Facebook post from Jerry in their HOA that says all oil and gas workers have been told to stay home.  They might read the Governor’s Executive Order and not understand that oil and gas field workers are considered “essential” and are continuing to operate facilities.  If they are wondering about the safety of your operations, they will be scared about their safety because they have no way of knowing how it is being managed.

It is absolutely essential that you communicate proactively, before your community neighbors get worried.  Here are our recommendations:

  • Touch base with community leaders. Make sure your key jurisdictions know that you are working, committed to your operations, and available if they have questions.
  • Identify community neighbors to contact. Work with your internal land or stakeholder teams to assess which stakeholders to engage around existing, new, and under-development sites.  If landowners or residents have ever received a notice from your company or are likely to know about your site, they should hear from you.
  • Draft a letter in layman’s terms.  Explain that your workers are still coming to the field, are legally allowed to do so, and are prioritizing safety. 
  • Emphasize safety. In all communications, reiterate your commitment to safety throughout this situation and continue to comply with all regulations and company best practices.
  • Plan for ongoing communications. Provide a contact for questions who has the capacity to actually respond within a short period of time.  Encourage stakeholders to contact this person with questions or concerns. Remember: you would rather they contact you than local emergency responders, state agencies, or their local government officials. 
  • Continue to be transparent.  As the situation progresses, make sure stakeholders hear about any operational changes from you instead of Sharon on NextDoor.

You have a unique opportunity to help your stakeholders feel safe during very uncertain times.  Ensure they know you are not abandoning them.  Instead, you are a resource.  Consider what you would want to hear if you were in their position and form your authentic message.   

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