Friday, May 3, 2013

The Power Surge and Perception

Yesterday afternoon I walked over to the New America Foundation to hear Michael Levi, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), discuss our increasingly dynamic energy landscape and his new book, The Power Surge.

While I have not yet read Levi’s book, it’s high on my list. His Energy, Security, and Climate blog is a must-read. As an energy communicator, I’m both thankful for and jealous of his uncanny ability to make the complex digestible.

Not surprisingly, he said quite a bit yesterday that was insightful, but I found his remarks about public perception and the onshore oil and gas industry particularly poignant for communicators. It seems that many onshore oil and gas companies believe that a mistake by a competitor will not have ramifications on their brand and their ability to operate. As Levi suggested, in this moment of intense scrutiny over hydraulic fracturing and drilling, this perception is likely flawed.

The public, by and large, doesn’t distinguish carefully between different oil and gas companies. A drilling accident by one company is perceived as an accident by the entire industry.

This is a lesson the nuclear industry learned during Three Mile Island and one that has helped nuclear energy communicators prepare for challenges down the road, such as the accident at Fukushima in Japan. 

Protecting brand reputation, especially in the energy industry, often means not only preparing for challenges within your organization but also preparing for challenges within the industry that can drastically affect perception of your organization and its ability to do business.

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