Canadians Don’t Trust the Oil and Gas Industry

Alberta Oil Magazine’s National Survey of Energy Literacy, Public Trust and Confidence highlights that the vast majority of Canadians do not trust the companies in this industry, the government or the journalists reporting on fossil fuels. The only group that’s trusted are academics.

It’s not surprising that Canadians lack confidence in the business of oil and gas. The sector has struggled to credibly highlight the better aspects of its work and has failed to downplay what’s bad about fracking, dirty oil, etc. Additionally, the federal government has politicized oil and gas, making it easy for anyone who disagrees with Stephen Harper to be suspicious of initiatives such as the Keystone Pipeline.

During an interview on CBC Radio’s The 180, Max Fawcett, editor of Alberta Oil, said that the industry needs to do a better job telling its story. I’d add that they also need to do a better, more environmentally-friendly job of managing and producing their product. As it stands, there’s arguably a lot of truth to the criticisms about the negative impact of extracting, processing and shipping hydrocarbons.

So until the industry’s leaders determine how best to honestly reconcile the challenges inherent to the sector, their feel-good ads will seem hollow. Until they find a way to balance the good with the bad and allow their actions to speak more loudly than their words, the energy sector will continue to be seen as a necessary evil with a bad rep.

Relying on credible actions instead of hard-to-believe words is easier said than done for some. But if the sector is in fact getting better at what it does, and given its many economic benefits, it should have a compelling story to share that over time might increase public trust and confidence.

Retargeted Ads

I see why online advertisers are interested in native ads, sponsored content and other ways to get consumers to notice brands: retargeted ads are irritating. You click on an ad for whatever reason or visit a site and then that ad follows you around screaming “look at me.” The idea being that since you were interested enough to visit the web page, you will eventually convert to a sale if you’re constantly reminded about your interest in that brand.

Make sense, I guess, but the downside is a negative brand experience due to the perception that the retargeted ad won’t leave you alone.

No matter how wonderful the creative is, how compelling the copy, or how relevant the offer, seeing the ad everywhere I click for longer than say, a day, isn’t effective. If I’m interested in the brand, I’ll come back when I’m ready. Likely after I read a review and see people I trust write positively about the product.

In other words, tone down the retargeting and rely more on the other marketing communications tools.

Planning For The Next Big Thing

I’ve recently completed the fiscal year 2012 corporate communications plan for The Weather Network / MétéoMédia where I work. With help from my team, we’re working to increasingly participate in weather-related conversations, online and off. This may seem like an easy task given that Canadians love talking about the weather and TWN/MM are popular brands.

However, the task of managing our social media presence, working with the news media and generally keeping our fans happy is challenging. So how do I stay ahead?

I work with a great team that is integrated across research, social, PR, customer relations and marketing. The researchers help benchmark and confirm success and customer relations respond to and manage external feedback. I highlight the research and customer relations functions since it’s rare that they work this closely with communications. Their proximity, CR reports into me and I’m part of the marketing team that includes research, gives me access to data, insights and feedback that helps build and sustain strategies.

Success looks a lot different these days in light of changing media which have altered how marketing works. Good thing I work with a team that’s immersed in the mix and understands how to demonstrate success.