Natural gas fracturing, or fracking as it is known, can help make the U.S. energy independent and a net exporter of energy within five years. Unfortunately, public opinion outside of the industry is very negative when it comes to the practice of freeing natural gas from rocks. Popular films, news coverage, and posturing by environmental groups have stacked the deck against the industry for certain. But all is not lost. Here are some steps for overcoming the concerns of the public about fracking:
1. Be local. When or if possible, use spokespersons and company representatives who live in the area where your company will be working. No one will trust an out of towner. Worse, the lack of a local presence will be used against you.
2. Rely on facts and data, but only up to a point. People who are worried about the potential for some danger introduced to them via popular media are emotional, not rational. Thus, you should not be surprised when they behave and react in irrational ways. People are more emotional beings than they are logical.
3. Big business has a sketchy reputation. Business is not trusted and energy and petrochemical companies less. You are a strike or two down before you ever arrive on the scene. Manage your and your colleagues/client expectations. Not everyone is going to be persuaded by you or your messages. Be prepared to spend the time needed to get your message across.
4. Rely on local media, but make communications two way. There was never a better time to leverage inbound marketing techniques (landing pages with information offered freely and regularly) with your stakeholder audience. Press coverage is a way to introduce yourself and company to an audience but take the time and trouble to make information available to anyone who wants it.
5. Be transparent. My experience in business is that it is considered career suicide to publicly admit a mistake. Maybe. But think big picture and tell the truth no matter how distasteful it might be. You might suffer criticism for a time inside the office, but long term you will be scene as a visionary for being the guy/gal willing to be tell the whole truth. It’s part of number 6!
6. Respect the audience. I never allowed co-workers to refer to residents or other stakeholder members as “Joe Six Pack” or other unflattering characterizations and neither should you. These people are or could potentially be your neighbors. Show some respect and remember that if you are not sincere, people will see through you.