How to Build Trust in Energy

According to the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, trust in the energy sector among the general public is on the rise with a five-point increase to 58 percent. But the sector still comes in low on the Barometer, ranking just above pharmaceuticals and financial services.How can energy companies bridge the trust gap with the public? Here are a few tips to help brands become trustworthy.

Speak for Yourself

From my experience, many energy companies want to fly under the radar to avoid generating too much interest in their operations and projects. It's not that they have anything to hide, but a response to the less-than-favorable public perception that plagues the industry.

The problem with this introverted approach is that it leaves a huge void for detractors and opponents to fill. As the saying goes, if you don't tell your story, someone else will.

For example, consider the word fracking. It's a derivative of hydraulic fracturing, the well-stimulation process used in the crude oil and natural gas industry. Though the industry refers to the process as fracking, the majority of media outlets report it as fracking, the expletive-sounding word of choice for anti-development activists.

If oil and gas producers were more proactive in telling their story, could they have stopped "fracking" in its tracks or retaken ownership of the word?

Brand Leadership and Culture Matters

Edelman reports that energy CEOs are the least trusted among all industries at 46 percent. In today's marketplace, CEOs are the face, as well as the heart and soul, of a company. Leaders who hide away in the C-suite are doing an incredible disservice to their organization. Inversely, CEOs and executives who are engaged and active in the communities in which they operate, transparent in their transactions and vocal advocates for their industry can help bolster a company's reputation.

Additionally, a CEO who fosters a culture of respect for employees can also reap trust and reputation rewards, as employees who are empowered and treated well can become invaluable brand ambassadors.

Educate the Masses

As I've written before, energy is complicated. It's safe to say that most people don't know where their energy comes from or how it's generated, they just know they're not happy when the lights aren't working or the house is freezing.

Educating the public about the processes involved in generating, transporting and distributing energy helps create a more knowledgeable and trusting consumer. As does highlighting the economic benefits of the energy sector and its efforts to operate in a more environmentally sound manner.

Simply put, if energy companies want to build trust, they must rethink how they engage and communicate with the public. Failing to do so could result in a drop in trust and possibly the bottom line.

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