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CIPR ELP What Energy Companies Want


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CIPR's Energy Leadership Platform paper on what energy leaders look for from their PR and Communications function

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CIPR ELP What Energy Companies Want

  2. 2. Introduction Those working in energy PR and communications need a unique and diverse combination of skills and knowledge. Complex, risk averse, interdependent and demand driven, the energy industry is like no other. As such, energy communications is never just about oil, gas or power. Geopolitics, capital markets, international trade, environmental footprint and protection, engineering, technology, community relations and local culture are among the other areas that need to be considered. To understand more about these requirements, the CIPR’s Energy Leadership Platform (ELP) asked energy executives what they look for in their PR and communications people. The responses received provide an interesting challenge to PR practitioners about their role within the energy sector. While many of the skills cited by respondents are pertinent to any PR practitioner, one area of expertise stood head and shoulders above the others – a deep and broad understanding of the specific and complex needs of the energy sector. “To make a strategic contribution to the business objectives of an energy organisation, PR practitioners need to possess a unique combination of skills and knowledge: deep and broad understanding of the wider value chain and the interconnected stakeholder mix inherent to the product. Energy communication is never just about one thing or about one point of view.” An Introduction to Energy PR What Energy Companies Want From PR Professionals / 2
  3. 3. About the Energy Leadership Platform The Energy Leadership Platform (ELP), set up by the CIPR, is the first energy PR thinktank in the world. It is designed to engage with the key issues that matter to the energy industry nationally and internationally and create regular and high-level content that can contribute to the wider energy debate in the UK and globally. The ELP seeks to demonstrate the intelligence, sophistication and value that strategic communications can bring to the energy industry, with the ultimate overarching objective of articulating the value of public relations as a strategic management function. About the CIPR Founded in 1948, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) is the Royal Chartered professional body for public relations practitioners in the UK and overseas. The CIPR advances professionalism in public relations by making its members accountable to their employers and the public through a code of conduct and searchable public register, setting standards through training, qualifications, awards and the production of best practice and skills guidance, facilitating Continuing Professional Development (CPD), and awarding Chartered Public Relations Practitioner status (Chart.PR). What Energy Companies Want From PR Professionals / 3
  4. 4. Methodology The study was carried out by the ELP during April and May 2019. More than 150 Energy industry professionals (including CEOs, MDs, C-suite executives, board members, engineers and HR managers) were asked the question: What do you think the skills of a public relations professional working in energy PR should be? Two important factors influenced the methodology and outcome of the study: 1. Only energy industry experts who use or employ PR and comms professionals – and who have no training or education in PR and comms themselves – were asked to take part. This deliberate action was to ensure that the respondents were completely removed from the PR world and were answering from their own experience of working with PR professionals. 2. The energy industry experts were not nudged in any way by the interviewers or given a list of PR skills to choose from. This insured that their responses were completely unprompted and unbiased and that the results reflected an accurate depiction of what energy leaders look for in their PR professionals. The respondents’ comments were then analysed against the skills listed in Global Alliance’s ‘Global Body of Knowledge’ framework and a table showing how often a skill was cited was compiled and compared with CIPR’s ‘State of the Profession’ research into what practitioners said they spent their time doing. Due to the unprompted nature of the survey, it was sometimes necessary to allocate a response to a number of different skill areas. For example, some respondents referred to ‘story telling’ with writing skills, while others cited it within media relations or strategic thinking. Equally, the skills of campaign management, reputation management, crisis management and issues management were often described in different ways. Below we analyse the 11 skills considered most important by respondents. What Energy Companies Want From PR Professionals / 4
  5. 5. Table showing how frequently a skill or knowledge area was mentioned by respondents. Ranking Skills cited by respondents Equivalent activities undertaken as listed in CIPR ‘State of the Profession 2019’ 1 Industry knowledge NOT LISTED 2 Writing and verbal skills (including storytelling and persuading) Copywriting and editing (1) 3 Strategic thinking, planning and problem solving Strategic planning (5) 4 Interpersonal communication and managing relationships Management of people, resources (10) 5 Stakeholder analysis and engagement Community and stakeholder relations (7) 6 Cultural and diversity awareness and considerations NOT LISTED 7 Reputation management PR programmes/campaigns (3) 8 Establishing trust (including ethics and transparency) Defining missions/values, corporate governance (15) 9 Research and analysis Research, evaluation, measurement (12) 10 Crisis and issues management Crisis, issues management (4) 11 Social media and digital literacy Social media relations (9) 12 Networking NOT LISTED 13 Identifying and adapting to trends NOT LISTED 14 Media relations Media relations (2) 15 Internal engagement Internal/employee communication (6) 16 Lobbying Public Affairs (14) 17 Business literacy NOT LISTED 18 Public speaking and presenting NOT LISTED What Energy Companies Want From PR Professionals / 5
  6. 6. Findings Interestingly, ‘Industry knowledge’ – the skill most cited by participants (more than double the second most commonly cited skill) – is not even listed in the Global Alliance’s ‘Global Body of Knowledge’ framework or the skills most valued by recruiters in the CIPR’s ‘State of the Professional 2019’ report. 1. Industry knowledge While not included in a conventional list of PR skills, the need for ‘Industry knowledge’ should come as no surprise to those working in energy PR. The complex and diverse nature of the energy sector almost demands that PR professionals have a deep and often first hand understanding of the sector. PR professionals can’t afford to take a position on something until they understand it deeply and they must be prepared to change their position as they learn more or as a situation develops. (James Fleay, CSU Engineer – CO2 Compression and Sequestration, Chevron) Awareness of key issues and challenges in the energy sector - they seem to change week by week. (Alan Johnson, Managing Director, Integrated Petrophysical Solutions) The public needs to understand where the oil comes from and what it is being used for - medicines, plastics, food packaging, nutrition and food supply. It’s not all about renewables and green energy. (Denis Pinto, Managing Director, Caledonian Flow Systems) 2. Writing and verbal skills (including storytelling and persuading) The traditional role of being able to tell engaging stories and communicate clearly is seen as a prerequisite to energy PR. Excellent writing and verbal skills are particularly important in making what is often complex and highly technical information accessible to an uninformed audience. The ability to spot a story where teams do not necessarily see a story; the ability to simplify a story when others tend to talk technical... but to still keep it relevant to a technical audience. (Project Manager, mid-sized oil and gas company) Best PR people I’ve worked with in the industry are able to get a great story/project win out to the market in a very creative way. (Recruitment Manager for one of the world’s leading drilling and engineering contractors). There is a lot of convincing to do so I would say also negotiation skills and therefore listening, public speaking, collaboration. (Senior Geophysicist for one of the seven supermajor oil companies) What Energy Companies Want From PR Professionals / 6
  7. 7. 3. Strategic thinking, planning and problem solving With energy PR being as much about managing and mitigating risk as it is about communicating benefits, PR practitioners need to be able to think and plan strategically. When executed strategically and effectively, energy PR can help shape the debate on behalf of both the industry and the consumer. A PR professional needs to be able to not only listen to their customers and the market, but have an enquiring mind so that they can consolidate varying opinions across the market to identify thought leadership or be thought provoking and at a level of strategic challenge to the audience. This makes the difference between someone that collates information to someone that is a PR professional in my opinion. (Dawn Robertson, Offshore Service Line Director, Bureau Veritas) Resourcefulness – ability to leverage multiple types of strategy to maximise cost effectiveness. (Mike Adams, Co-founder, Norwell Edge) Saying the wrong thing or disclosing at the wrong time can raise concerns ranging from potential violations of the securities laws to putting the issuer in conflict with its stakeholders/shareholders. (Jade Jones, Company Secretary, World Association of Nuclear Operators) 4. Interpersonal communication and managing relationships Successful communicators start by listening to what their communities have to say, rather than by telling them what organisations think they should hear. This is particularly true in the energy sector where the PR approach must be subtle, sensitive and patient, focusing on engagement rather than confrontation. A lot of what you are doing will be at CEO level. You need to be comfortable working at the most senior levels of government and business and board levels. (Stuart Broadley, CEO, The Energy Industries Council) Strong interpersonal skills – treat all people equally: no more “Big Oil” talking down to the grateful masses. (Alan Johnson, Managing Director, Integrated Petrophysical Solutions) The ability to genuinely listen and hear what is being said as opposed to listen and go off and do something completely different. (Iain Adams, Managing Director, Norwell Engineering) What Energy Companies Want From PR Professionals / 7
  8. 8. 5. Stakeholder analysis and engagement Energy companies operate across the world, many of them in isolated or rural areas. PR practitioners need to be thoroughly acquainted with the work cultures of their clients, regions and communities. The replication of communication and engagement strategies and tactics seldom works in the energy industry. What works in Texas does not necessarily work in Lincolnshire or Lagos. PR is important for the success of the energy delivery for the world’s current demands, and it clearly shows that PR professionals are this link between three main triangles: Companies, Governments and communities. (Maria Trujillo, Senior Reservoir Engineer, CNOOC International) The energy industry stretches over many domains; fossil, hydro, solar, nuclear, geothermal, tidal, renewables… each has its own relationship with the public. (Brian Moffatt, Founder, Petrophase) The challenge for truth-seeking PR professionals is one of education – helping the public and their representatives make good energy policy decisions. (James Fleay, CSU Engineer – CO2 Compression and Sequestration, Chevron) 6. Cultural and diversity awareness and considerations Energy PR practitioners need to be aware of the challenges and opportunities that prevail in various regions across the world. At times, there are issues with the entire supply chain. The right strategy always depends on context, and this changes from country to country. A deep understanding of cultural differences and ways of working is imperative. (Tina Russell, Global Key Account Manager, Cardno PPI) The ability to work across cultural and international boundaries, to relate to multiple cultures and types of audience, to work across multiple teams and cultures. (Project Manager, mid-sized oil and gas company) An important skill is to have cultural awareness and understanding without prejudgment, because every community will see and adapt to changes differently. (Maria Trujillo, Senior Reservoir Engineer, CNOOC International) They need to be aware of (or able to quickly learn) the social and religious attitudes in the community with which they are communicating. The public relations practitioner must have integrity and be willing to refuse to misrepresent to the community the impact of the energy sector’s operations. (Dr Eve Sprunt, retired petroleum industry executive) What Energy Companies Want From PR Professionals / 8
  9. 9. 7. Reputation management Similar to other sectors, energy PR practitioners need to become custodians of the message rather than its manipulators. They need to educate their clients and colleagues about the benefits of adopting a long-term communications strategy based on transparency, ethics and mutual understanding. The oil industry is getting increasingly bad press. It could really do with some PR to support its fading decades during the transition to renewables. (Brian Moffatt, Founder, Petrophase) The public sphere is the battleground for the different lobby groups with consumers very often being fed conflicting information. (Guy Rice, Managing Director, SolarSol) A responsibility to raise awareness succinctly (of plights and emerging technologies), factually correctly, and act ethically and quickly. (Tim Partridge, Head of Energy, Trading, Risk Supplier Management, DB Group) Reputation management is paramount for all organisations, particularly given the speed and reach of communication channels.  The best comms professionals not only know what good looks like, but also how best to work with other professional colleagues who specialise in risk management. (Mark Cooper, General Counsel, Cadent Gas) 8. Establishing trust (including ethics and transparency) As with many institutions, there is a trust deficit in the energy sector. Energy PR needs to provide a balanced view of the role each energy source plays in delivering a sustainable energy future, ensuring informed opinion guides the debate on the energy transition and the increasingly important role of renewables. The public relations practitioner must have integrity and be willing to refuse to misrepresent to the community the impact of the energy sector’s operations. (Dr Eve Sprunt, retired petroleum industry executive) Good PR depends on an element of trust and transparency; in most of these sectors supply chain collaboration can determine level of access to markets and to harness what is good for that particular business. (Kenny McPhail, Maintenance Superintendent for one of the world’s largest marine energy transportation, storage production companies) To adhere to honesty/integrity and promote a customer/employee friendly face of the firm, as much as realistically possible. It is a two-edged sword, but a skilled PR professional knows how to handle it. (Dr Milap Goud, CEO, Knnamp Enterprises) Integrity. There is a lot of trust associated with handing over the future public profile and perception of company and individual image; it’s important to know that what is being presented will enhance and not damage the image. (Iain Adams, Managing Director, Norwell Engineering) What Energy Companies Want From PR Professionals / 9
  10. 10. 9. Research and analysis It Is clear from the responses received that a deep understanding of the sector, or the ability to successfully work within energy PR, would not be possible without the ability to undertake research and analysis. Interestingly, the significance placed on this work by senior leaders in the energy sector matches with the position of what public relations practitioners say they spend their time doing in the ‘State of the Profession’ research. There is a lot of “data throwing” (climate, energy security, pollution, sustainability...) and I believe is crucial to understand the data and context behind. (Senior Geophysicist for one of the seven supermajors) The challenge for truth-seeking PR professionals is one of education; when advocacy is not informed by fact and deep knowledge (and becomes intertwined with appearing virtuous), it too easily plays in to the hands of vested interests; relentless truth seeking, I can’t overstate the importance of this; investment of time and effort to get the full picture. (James Fleay, CSU Engineer – CO2 Compression and Sequestration, Chevron) 10. Crisis and issues management Again, due to the unprompted nature of the research question asked and answers received, crisis and issues management was often alluded to within skills such as industry knowledge and reputation management. This explains the lower placing of this skillset in the ranking table. An efficient PR professional must understand where the debates are, how this links into the political, social and community agenda, and ultimately how this can feed into an effective communications strategy. (Craig Shanaghey, President Operations Services Europe Africa, Wood Group) Appreciation of state of play of the industry; what is feasible and what is not; political astuteness, tact and diplomacy; appreciation of the intransigence of pressure groups; work with or workaround. (Brian Moffatt, Founder, Petrophase) The role of PR is now more crucial, as the industry needs to fight against other parties, such as the conventional and social media. (Maria Trujillo, Senior Reservoir Engineer, CNOOC International) 11. Social media and digital literacy It is interesting to see how infrequently social media and digital literacy was mentioned by the energy industry experts. While it is clearly very much part of today’s general PR world, within Energy PR it falls way below industry and cultural knowledge. They need to be digital. It is good to have good editing or writing skills, but they need to continue that to a digital platform in a powerful way. (Stuart Broadley, CEO, The Energy Industries Council) Important to have the skill to handle CEO’s activity on social media platforms such as Twitter. (Jade Jones, Company Secretary, World Association of Nuclear Operators) What Energy Companies Want From PR Professionals / 10
  11. 11. Conclusion and implications for wider PR Energy is a challenging subject for communicators. Not only is it hugely complex and varied, it is a vital societal issue that touches everyone. While PR generalists can operate successfully within the sector, there is a significant advantage in having a broad and deep understanding of the industry. However, the diversity of the energy industry lends itself to incredible opportunities for communicators of all backgrounds, ages, genders, nationalities and religions. For the wider PR sector, the findings of this survey among those who use and employ PR services (chairmen, CEOs, MDs, board members, etc.) suggest that PR is recognised as a strategic management discipline – a goal the CIPR has been pursuing for many years. They also suggest that while traditional media relations – and increasingly social media relations – have value as tactics, it is the wider business skills of industry knowledge, strategic planning, problem solving, emotional intelligence and business acumen that are valued most. What Energy Companies Want From PR Professionals / 11
  12. 12. Next steps If you are interested in developing your career in energy PR here is some practical advice: Familiarise yourselves with the terminology and aspects covered by the energy sector by regularly visiting the websites of the following organisations and subscribing to their newsletters, where possible: • The Society of Petroleum Engineers ( • Energy4Me ( • The Energy Institute (   • Oil and Gas UK ( • Sustainable Energy for All ( • UN-Energy ( • International Energy Agency ( • International Energy Forum ( • World Energy Council ( • The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries ( • International Atomic Energy Agency ( • International Renewable Energy Agency ( • The Solar Energy Industries Association ( • The International Solar Energy Society ( • European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity ( • International Hydropower Association ( • The Global Wind Energy Council ( Where possible, join an energy industry association active in your area – many of these welcome, as associate or voluntary members, individuals who do not necessarily have a technical background in the energy sector. There are many energy publications with online editions, some are free and others require a subscription. They all provide topical analysis and discussions pertinent and relevant to the energy sector. Some of these are: • Energy Voice ( • Energy Digital ( • Oxford Institute for Energy Studies ( • Energy Global ( • Oil Gas Journal ( If you are unsure whether a career in energy PR is for you, we recommend reading Energy Leadership Platform’s “An Introduction to Energy PR”. What Energy Companies Want From PR Professionals / 12
  13. 13. CIPR’s Energy Leadership Platform would like to thank all the energy sector organisations that took part in this research but, especially, to: Bureau Veritas Cadent Gas Caledonian Flow Systems Cardno PPI CNOOC International DB Group The Energy Industries Council Exploration Systems International Expro Halliburton Integrated Petrophysical Solutions Knnamp Enterprises Norwell Edge Norwell Engineering Orica Petrophase Prime Rock Energy Capital Proactive RT Solutions Rashid Petroleum SolarSol Subsea UK Tejas Research and Engineering The Oil and Gas Technology Centre Wood Group World Association of Nuclear Operators What Energy Companies Want From PR Professionals / 13