Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Good communication tactics stand up to fire test

A towering flame just beyond one's backyard is quite possibly one of the most disturbing things a homeowner can see.  We recently had one such flame:

To quote Alfred E. Neuman, "What, me worry?" 
In any other circumstance, a fire of this magnitude so close to a neighborhood would be quite alarming. However, thanks to some effective corporate communication tactics, Chesapeake Energy alleviated fears, doubts, and general concerns.

The issues: Chesapeake Energy determined a need to conduct flaring operations at a location just west of my neighborhood to "more effectively assess a natural gas well’s production capabilities and determine areas where pipeline is most needed to begin transporting the gas to market." [source] From a PR perspective, their problem included the proximity to neighborhoods and area businesses and what needed to be done to help educate the community.

They kept it simple: From my perspective, the Chesapeake Energy communications tactics employed stem from a strategy which is heavy on community education and engagement.

  • We were first informed of the planned flaring operations via a letter from the company explaining the procedures, safety, and general information. 
  • The letter included a link to their Web site dedicated to answering additional questions on these and other relevant drilling-related topics divided by neighborhood
  • Lastly, a sign was placed at the entrance to gas well that gave relevant and useful information such as permitting, 24-hour supervision on-site, an emergency number, and of course their Web site again.
    (If you look closely, you can see the flames through the trees.)

To be clear, I have no connection to Chesapeake beyond concerned neighbor to one of their natural gas wells. In fact, I didn't think much of the initial letter when I read it. We, like most families in our neighborhood I am sure, were startled by the fire. (I even joked about it on Twitter and Twitpic.) Nevertheless, there was a good lesson here for communicators who want to avoid not having coporate messages heard.

Communication Carry-out:  With the right tactics and tools (even the simple ones) you can achieve effective communication enlightenment: message sent — message received. This is just my way of highlighting what a corporate communications win looks like from a member of the community.

What do you think? The comments are yours.
(Note: As a sat down to write this post, the flaring operations ceased.)