Extractive industries are inevitably environmentally disruptive. Which is why environmental activists, community leaders as well as regulators and investors want to know how extractive industries manage and report on their social and environmental performance.
Corporate citizenship is a business necessity, not a nice to have.
At the Communicate Magazine’s Reputation in Oil, Gas and Mining conference, the debate centred on how to use social and digital media to manage corporate reputations and engage with communities and stakeholders.
What struck me most was how far some of the highest profile players in oil, gas and mining have gone in integrating social media into their strategies.
Organisations such as Rio Tinto, Anglo American and Shell are using social media to listen to and weigh-in on discussions about their brand – positive or otherwise. Not only are they keeping stakeholders informed of brand news and CSR performance, but they’re also actively dispelling myths surrounding their organisations or industry.
Although many talked of the risks of engaging through social media, it was clear the consensus was pro engagement and that the advantages outweigh the risks.
For instance, a panellist from a leading international oil company (whose Facebook page has over 1 million followers) gave a very poignant example of where his team responded publically to a consumer’s comments, which effectively blamed the company for high prices at the pump. By providing a measured response, which clearly articulated the various, unrelated drivers of petrol prices in an open forum, other readers responded with praise and thanks for the information.
What was clear to corporate affairs directors and others at the event was the importance of taking a strategic view when planning which channels you’ll adopt and why.
The digital landscape is riddled with so many platforms that knowing which is right for your business and being able to measure its return is crucial. Metrics matter. (Which is why Lexis has developed a social media-planning tool called REACT to help clients make better, more impactful digital investments.)
As one of the panellists pointed out, the reputations of companies in the extractive industries’ are more correlated to one another than in most other industries. Meaning, when one faces a crisis, the reputations of its peers also suffer. Without the knowing where your audience is or what they’re saying about you, how can you hope to defend yourself or separate your brand from your competitors’ misfortunes?