Managing hostile communities is one of the biggest challenges facing most oil companies. Chevron, Shell, Exon Mobil, Total, Agip and others are still grappling with this public relations dilemma.
Here are 10 public relations ideas for oil companies to effectively engage with hostile or skeptical host communities.
Active listening and empathy
One of the first steps in managing hostile community relations is to actively listen to their concerns and empathize with their perspective.
While it’s impossible to meet all their demands, by demonstrating genuine empathy and understanding, the companies can begin to rebuild trust and create a more positive environment for communication.
Cultural preservation and participation
Respecting and preserving local culture is essential when operating in host communities. This is often overlooked by the oil companies.
They can support more cultural events, festivals, and heritage preservation initiatives. This demonstrates respect and helps promote the community’s unique identity.
Independent Environmental Impact Assessments
Hostile communities often have concerns regarding the environmental impact of oil operations.
To address these concerns, oil companies should occasionally commission independent and comprehensive environmental impact assessments.
Community advisory boards
Establishing community advisory boards comprising community representatives, environmental experts, and relevant stakeholders can provide a platform for ongoing dialogue.
These boards can act as a bridge between the company and the community, offering insights, recommendations, and feedback on operational decisions and environmental initiatives.
Mitigation measures and technological innovations
Implementing state-of-the-art technology and mitigation measures can help alleviate concerns about environmental impact.
Sharing some of these advancements with the community can demonstrate a proactive approach to environmental stewardship.
Community investment and empowerment
Investing in the well-being and development of the host community is essential. Oil companies can support more community-led initiatives focused on education, healthcare, infrastructure, and economic empowerment.
The media and the public are still of the opinion that the community projects by most of the oil companies are more of symbolic tokenism than substance.
Local employment and training programs
Providing job opportunities and skills training programs for local residents can contribute to the economic development of the host community. This has been a much-trumpeted demand by most host communities.
Collaborating with local educational institutions to develop training programs aligned with industry needs can also help create a skilled local workforce.
Establishing partnerships with local non-profit organizations and community initiatives can help build trust and credibility.
Oil companies should identify organizations working on issues relevant to the community’s concerns and collaborate on projects that address those issues. This collaboration can demonstrate a genuine commitment to making a positive impact beyond core operations.
Crisis management preparedness
Hostile community relations can sometimes escalate into crises. Oil companies should have a robust crisis management plan in place to effectively respond to and mitigate any potential crises.
Most of the oil companies already have well-oiled crisis management machinery in place, but surprises and crisis are never in short supply!
Continuous engagement and relationship building
Managing hostile community relations is an ongoing process. Building lasting relationships based on trust and mutual understanding requires regular interaction and ongoing efforts to address concerns and improve community-company relations.