Crises in the oil and gas industry can be catastrophic. Should you face an oil spill, a grave injury, or some other type of unexpected event, you could be thrust into the public eye. Criticism from media outlets, NGOs, or activist groups can be harmful to your reputation if you don’t have a plan in place. When an accident happens, you want to make sure that you’re mitigating it as quickly as possible.
Mitigating a disaster as best as possible isn’t usually enough to quell reputational damage. You need to have a solid communications plan in place, to be prepared for critical discussions. Here are the steps you should think about at every stage of a crisis.
Before the crisis…
- Keep track of the discussion. Be aware of the discussion surrounding your organization. What is your reputation like when it comes to environmental concerns? Do you have corporate social responsibility policies in place for doing good in your community? Be aware of potential problem areas. If you set up Google alerts and have other tools for reputation monitoring, you’re predisposed to understand how other parties feel about you.
- Minimize the possibility of a crisis. Have a crisis management team that’s responsible for minimizing the possibility of a disaster. You may also need to have a training team in place to conduct exercises for testing your crisis management plan.
- Pre-draft your message. Your crisis management team has a plan that accounts for various types of crises and disasters. Once they’ve thought these possibilities through, you’ll want to create messaging templates. These templates will provide the messaging that you’ll send out to the community in times of crisis. They should include critical information like evacuation points and safety measures. Your team can manage and utilize tools like AtHoc Alert for pre-configuring these communications.
- Designate spokespeople. If you have key personnel that can speak to issues, make sure you call on them in advance. If certain partners or executives have a reputation for trustworthiness and credibility, use them to send your message to the community.
During the crisis…
- Don’t self-isolate. It can be tempting in a crisis to make a hasty retreat and shield your organization from the public eye. Ultimately though, that approach can cause more damage and lead to a pile-on of blame and even litigation. Instead, offer support and be available to those affected. Be transparent with information, and be proactive in your response. You also don’t want to wait too long before showing up for those affected, holding Q&As or press conferences, and offering solutions.
- Maintain your message. Keep your spokespeople on track with consistent messaging. You don’t want to add to the confusion by appearing at odds internally. Check in to ensure that your key message points are understood and being disseminated.
- Look ahead. Express what you’ll be doing to mitigate the crisis. Show that you’re looking forward to how to best rebuild in the aftermath. It’s also a good time to communicate how various parties might be affected,
After the crisis…
- Deliver on your promises. Deliver information and resources that were promised to all stakeholders. Make sure that all feel clued in to the progress of the recovery efforts and aware of the timelines for business continuity plans.
- Review your response. While it’s fresh, tweak your crisis communication plan for any steps you missed this time around. By being reflective about what went well and what didn’t, you can avoid future mistakes. Where possible, take new steps to ensure that the same type of crisis won’t happen again. This brings you back to the beginning of the crisis communication cycle.
While you can’t plan for every facet of a crisis, you can understand the unique challenges facing the oil and gas industry. By staying aware of industry events and using that awareness to inform your plan, you’ll be better prepared in the event of an emergency. It’s very easy to lose the trust of stakeholders and the public, so preserving your reputation should be a continuous effort.