Beyond the Headlines: Connecting With Stakeholders
Editor’s note: Professionals in the oil and gas industry often receive questions about how industry operations affect public health, the environment, and the communities in which they operate. Of particular concern today is the impact of hydraulic fracturing on the environment. In this new column, JPT is inviting energy experts to put those questions and concerns about industry operations into perspective. Additional information about the oil and gas industry, how it affects society, and how to explain industry operations and practices to the general public is available on SPE’s Energy4me website at www.energy4me.org.
Colorado recently has been at the epicenter of the energy debate. The oil and natural gas industry has been facing unrelenting scrutiny from activist groups and concerns from stakeholders about operations in an urban environment. The Wattenberg field, located 25 miles northeast of Denver, has been an active field for more than 50 years and has more than 15,000 vertical wells. But the increased visibility associated with recent horizontal well activity, combined with the area becoming more densely populated, put the operations in the spotlight.
The industry has traditionally done a poor job of communicating information in a meaningful way that resonates with stakeholders. As engineers, we like to use science, data, and charts to explain things to people, but in this case it was not working. There was a need to enhance and re-engineer communications and engagement with all stakeholders.
Anadarko Petroleum recognized this need to change how the industry has traditionally interacted with the public, including the Colorado communities where it operates. Beginning in 2012, using its five core values as a guide, Anadarko began an initiative to create ambassadors out of its most valuable asset: its employees. The five core values are:
- Integrity and trust
- Servant leadership
- People and passion
- Commercial focus
- Open communication
The development of any company strategic tool or practice must align with these values and, in this case, the enhancement of open communication in Colorado was the central focus. Giving employees the tools and resources to have educated and respectful dialogue about responsible oil and natural gas development empowers them to listen and confidently address questions and share the benefits of the energy industry.
Anadarko’s public affairs and government affairs teams created and implemented an internal communications campaign known as the Anadarko Ambassador Program. The components of the program include:
- A printed ambassador tool kit containing industry statistic
- Facts and talking points
- A 3-day “advocate” training program for employee
- A 1-day “ambassador” training
- A mobile app for electronic devices called the Ambassador App
Advocates and Ambassadors
Anadarko’s “advocates” participate in a 3-day immersive training program for Colorado employees recommended by their supervisors. Intended to inform, empower, and motivate employees, the company trains approximately 20 employees at a time in a small-class environment. An industry consultant helped develop the program, which includes:
- A half-day primer on the company’s oil and natural gas operations and development with an emphasis on hydraulic fracturing and regulations
- A comprehensive review of the politics and policies affecting the oil and gas industry today
- A half-day field tour of the company’s operations
- A day for teams to apply a class discussion item to a current issue
The training teaches essential communication skills, including how to engage in conversations about the industry, how to listen to better understand concerns, and role playing to answer common questions about hydraulic fracturing and other industry operations. It is meant to enable and empower advocates to participate and speak at community events, such as town hall meetings, and speak in front of various industry or nonindustry organizations to which they may belong.
The ambassador training is a condensed version of the advocate training and is open to all company employees in Colorado. It is intended to inform and empower employees with 6 hours of training on similar topics. More than 320 employees have been trained to date.
The Tool Kit
The information in the tool kit was put together using industry sources such as FracFocus.org, EnergyFromShale.org, and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. The kit was designed to be a one-stop source of information about the topics the public often has questions or concerns about. The content includes key messages about energy, hydraulic fracturing, air quality, water management, regulations, industry investment and economic benefits, an industry Q&A, products derived from oil and natural gas, key takeaways about the industry, and tips on communicating with elected officials.
The goal is to ensure that employees have access to the facts and information needed to have respectful and truthful dialogues about oil and gas development. Our people are our best ambassadors and the general stakeholder wanted to hear directly from them. The tool kit was created to provide them company-approved, vetted information that they could use as a resource.
Anadarko rolled out the Ambassador Toolkit to its Colorado workforce in 2013. The company is on its fourth reprint of the Colorado Toolkit and a second reprint of its US Onshore Ambassador Toolkit, which was created for its US onshore assets. Other operators and service companies have replicated or modified the tool kit to meet their needs.
The mobile app is designed to offer a portable, easy-to-use reference. It includes a means to share updated content, data, and resources instantly. Some key factors in designing the mobile app were:
- Created to be customizable by company and brand-specific content
- Leveraged content that was already created and approved for the tool kit to reduce redevelopment and reapproval process
- 90% industry content and 10% company-specific content
- Created with push-notification capability to send live updates to employees who opt in
- Content is updated by public affairs team
Employees can further engage by submitting questions and feedback through the app on a weekly basis. Comments included requests for more information on topics such as renewable energy, updated job numbers, and the latest news about the Colorado ballot initiatives that affect the industry.
In addition to being used by the three companies that created it, the app has been rebranded and deployed by one of the area’s largest oilfield service companies. And the app’s scalable version and technology is being used as a framework for a public app developed by Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED), so that anyone can access information about oil and gas for free.
The ambassador program has provided a values-based tool that has empowered oil and natural gas employees to confidently represent their industry and have materials supported by sound science to share through a print tool kit or mobile app. We believe this and other communication efforts helped defeat the most recent fracturing ban initiative that was on the ballot in Loveland, Colorado.
Beyond the Headlines: Connecting With Stakeholders
Mike Eberhard, SPE, Completions Manager, Anadarko, and Robin Olsen, External Relations Manager, Anadarko Rockies Division
01 October 2014
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