How storytelling can get Atlantic Canada’s offshore oil sector’s message to the masses

How storytelling can get Atlantic Canada’s offshore oil sector’s message to the masses

Have you noticed the recent increase in communication from Atlantic Canada’s oil and gas industry?

Things went fairly quiet with the collapse in the price of oil from 2014–16. That’s not a surprise when you consider how dramatically this affected Newfoundland and Labrador’s economy and industry. Communicating was the least of our worries. I hope that this recent increase in communications is a result of increased industry confidence and business activity.

The quality and results from the recent communications messaging are worth noting. ExxonMobil’s new video, Go Inside One of the World’s Largest Oil Platforms, (profiling operations offshore on the Hebron platform) creatively provides insight into the lifestyle, operations and professionalism of the Hebron team. Well done!

Nalcor Energy’s exploration attraction program supporting the province’s 2018 land sale is another excellent example. Communications played a big role in raising awareness about our offshore resource potential. Bids for exploration licenses resulted in a record total of $1.38 billion and new entrant, BHP Billiton Petroleum, submitted a record-high bid of $621 million.

Local supply chain leaders have also been sending messages to influence national regulatory discussions, such as Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Oil & Gas Industry Association’s Imagine the Potential campaign. This multi-media marketing program and speaking tour has been raising awareness about the importance of the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore oil and gas industry in both the province and across Canada.

Its fact-based messaging draws upon an independent economic impact report that demonstrates the nation-building effects of the offshore oil and gas industry. The industry has contributed to the growth of the Canadian (particularly the Atlantic Canadian) economy―generating employment, technology development, institutional capacity and stronger communities. For instance, for every direct job in Newfoundland and Labrador generated by the offshore oil sector, there are 1.8 jobs created in the rest of Canada.

The report also states this is just the beginning and the province is on the verge of a new era in frontier oil exploration and development, with the potential for over $100 billion in royalties and revenues by 2045. And by 2033, employment could increase to 56,000 in-province and 22,737 jobs in other provinces.

Over the past 20 years, the province’s oil and gas companies have tracked and reported how the industry has benefited the province and transformed our society. A new report will be released in 2019. These reports are a collection of data from the whole industry that quantify and demonstrate how the sector is driving employment, technology advancements, community initiatives and the overall expansion of the province’s economy. We are also seeing how the industry is fostering the growth and diversification of the province’s economy, such as exporting to new jurisdictions.

These communication activities and their outcomes are excellent examples of why we (the big WE―operators, academia, private and public sectors) need to communicate more. We have an impressive story to tell Canada and beyond. Despite our small population, we often punch well above our weight. The story of the province’s competence, capacity and expertise relating to our petroleum experience needs to be better understood locally and internationally.

This storyline could potentially open doors for our exporting companies, which are now exporting to over 50 countries globally. For example, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Environmental Industry Association, in partnership with NOIA, will soon be heading off to Norway with a trade mission of companies focused on environmental/clean technologies used in the oil and gas industry. We also have a burgeoning technology start-up community that is primarily export oriented. With increased communications, we can add an invaluable reputation platform for these companies when accessing new markets. And the cost of communicating is negligible when you consider the upside of having our story heard.

On the flip side, by not communicating, we run the risk of naysayers filling the space with negativity, as we’ve seen in other jurisdictions like the oil sands. Furthermore, important influencers and investors will remain unaware or worse, be misinformed. Let’s not take that chance.

By telling our story and amplifying our message to the world, we help to ensure our communities, our employees, our future employees, our innovators, investors and leaders can take note of, feel confident about and take advantage of what we have to offer. Now that’s a message we can all stand behind.

Caron Hawco, ABC, PMP, is a communication and business strategy consultant and project manager, specializing in natural resources, public affairs, business development, trade missions, diversity, facilitation and media relations.

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