Executives often resist taking their message on the road, especially when their company is viewed negatively by stakeholders. But Shell Oil recently decided to send company president John Hofmeister on tour to share Shell’s vision for the future of the energy industry.
The purpose of Hofmeister’s 50 city tour was to re-establish a “social trust” in oil companies as providers of a secure, environmentally sound energy supply, rather than an industry at war with the American public.
“For too long oil companies have been perceived as the enemy,” Hofmeister said during a recent stop in Milwaukee, assigning blame to himself for not working to change that perception sooner.
After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, every state’s attorney general sent letters informing him that they would be watching his company for consumer price gouging. Invitations arrived from numerous states to testify in front of various committees concerned about the windfall profits of big oil. Even an invitation reached his desk to give testimony in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
Audio from one of Hofmeister’s speeches and video from an appearance on MSNBC should give readers a sense of his message. In the links below, you get a sense of how a company under fire consistently takes its message out to important publics. Even though the tone of some of the media coverage is negative, I’d say Hofmeister accomplished his mission to ensure his on-message story is being told.
It seems the Shell Answer Man realized a public relations maxim: if you are not telling your story, someone else certainly will tell it for you—especially if it’s bad news. Regardless of the size or focus of your business, you could benefit from similarly persistent, on-message communication with those who influence outcomes in your industry.
Doyle Administration Responds To Shell Oil (Notice how Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle immediately responded to ensure his message was represented in the dialogue.)