Posted By Andre Williams
SecretaryEver hear that phrase? And the “someone” they’re referring to usually constitutes a cute secretary with a high school diploma, or general studies degree if they’re lucky, whose public relations specialty is redirecting phone calls to voicemail and faxing press releases written by the HR Director.
Lately we’ve been pitching campaigns to energy companies who we believe are in desperate need of strategic public relations efforts. In doing so, we are discovering that many of our prospects in the energy industry either: A-Don’t fully understand public relations, or B-Don’t really respect its relevance to their existence. Many of the managers we speak to say, “We aren’t large enough to pay someone to do that PR stuff.” 
To me, it is inconceivable how any company in America can have an operating budget over $1billon and not have anyone directly responsible for implementing long-term, strategic public relations or corporate communications functions. But this is exactly why "Big Oil" has earned the negative perception it carries in the energy industry. For years they have conducted business within the realms of a “Good Ole' Boy” club that has operated under its own rules with no real respect for the corporate social responsibilities attributed to their business environment. Public relations has been nothing more than writing a check to pay for the koozies (foam holders used to keep beer cold) for the local fishing tournament. 
So if you’re happy with your image, just tell Susie the secretary to keep the koozies coming!

Posted By Andre Williams
PinoccioWhen it comes to the issue of energy, “the truth” is often hidden beneath ignorance, greed, politics and many other ugly disguises. 
Is “global climate change” for real? Have we reached “peak oil” yet? Is “clean coal” possible? Will “natural gas” actually rescue the country? Can millions of “green jobs” be created? And this list of questions can go on, and on, and on, and on…
When I explain our services to people, I immediately get a smug reaction, as they often seem to believe that we are a firm set in place to advance the agendas of others by getting paid to push propaganda BS and sugar-coat the harsh realities that exist in the energy industry.
We live in an information age where, eventually (if they search hard enough), people will discover the truth. Consider the fact that every time a political figure speaks, such as the great presidential debates we experienced last year, the media immediately dissects each statement, and clarifies it as “fact” or “fiction.” WHAT? You mean politicians aren’t allowed to lie anymore?
True public relations practitioners know the ill effects that careless propaganda and spinning can bring, but that doesn’t keep us from falling into the trap. I’ve asked myself… “Is it actually possible to provide “honest” public relations services to the energy industry?” We’ll see…

Posted By Andre Williams
Would you be comfortable with a referral from an ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend? When contemplating this question, one of the first things that come to mind is how or why your relationship ended. If the break-up was bad, chances are the referral will be too!  The same holds true for an employee let go during a bitter layoff process. If not handled strategically, your company’s image can be badly tarnished by one of your most important stakeholders—a former employee!
A business shares a relationship with its employees.  And just like any other relationship, it has to be carefully preserved in order for the business to maintain its positive image. However, in the energy industry, crises such as layoffs are often overly emphasized, and usually provide negative chatter that spreads like wildfire. Here are a few tips on how to use internal relations efforts that help reduce the negative perceptions surrounding layoffs and employees:
  • Beat the rumors- In the midst of our current recession, the media is highly attracted to stories that depict our current economic status. It may be a “notch in the belt” for your local news station to be the first to report that you are cutting staff, but it can be heart-wrenching for your employee to learn this while watching the broadcast during evening dinner with the family. As soon as you suspect layoffs, your management should immediately begin drafting messages that explain the current situation. It should be revealed internally first!  

  • Keep employees in the loop- Many businesses feel that employees should be limited to what they know. But it is important to keep in mind that they are the heart and soul of day-to-day operations and, because of this inside view, many of them know and understand the business better than some executive managers. So in many cases they can lend insight to ways of increasing business or cutting costs—two options that are far more accepted than layoffs. Internal newsletters or announcements are important public relations tools that keep employees in the loop.
  • Don’t burn bridges- Let’s face it… Good help is hard to find! So if you absolutely have to let someone go, it is important that you do so in the most respectable manner. Keep in touch with that person and let them know the current status of your company, so if business picks back up you can confidently call on this experienced employee. You’d be amazed at what a simple phone call or quick email can do to keep good relations with a former employee.
  • Respect the ones left behind- Employees who were not let go will do one of two things: 1.) Work harder to try and avoid being next, or 2.) Start looking for another job so they can beat you to the punch. So it is important that you give the proper attention to those employees responsible for maintaining operations. Offer an “open-door policy” so they may feel free to ask questions or offer comments.
If managers are proactive, and have a plan that focuses on maintaining good relationships, your business’ image can positively survive layoffs.




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