The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

10 ways to reduce concerns about fracking

Graham Marshall - Monday, October 24, 2011

If you haven't been following the blog posts over recent days about the outrage potential within the community regarding hydraulic fracturing for coal seam gas (CSG) and other non-conventionals, then it may  be worth going back over the last week and taking a look.

Today, I am going to share 10 tips that work to reduce the outrage potential of any issue such as fracking.  Before doing so,  however, you should understand that we at the Risk Tool Box consider hydraulic fracturing to be a perfectly acceptable hydrocarbon recovery process and without undue risk when managed in accordance with Western standards of oil-field work. 

The problem for us is not with fracking per se, but rather, the negative community perception towards fracking which could pose a significant risk to the CSG industry and this valuable, clean and sustainable energy source.  That's why we're putting forward the tips that work to reduce outrage.

Each of the tips offered today reduce outrage because they work to foster trust and promote honesty.

 

1.  Tell people any bad news that they already know.  Hearing the facts about bad news from industry is always better than leaving the facts to be exaggerated by the highly involved anti-CSG activists.  You’ll gain credit for your candor, and saying something is always better than saying nothing because it reduces uncertainty in the community.

2.  It sounds odd, but repeat bad news as often as you can.  People want to hear bad news until they’re sick of the topic - not until you’re sick of talking about it.  Wallowing in bad information is the best way to get past it.  People will tire of bad news faster if you raise it rather than them digging for it.

3.  You must demonstrate your concern about the community concerns.  But, do not use the word regret - only to be used by weasel lawyers and snake-eyed politicians.   You'll also get no credit for conditional apologizing - “We’re sorry IF anyone is upset”. Public response - “what do you mean IF?”  Apologizing means knowing what was done and why people find that it is upsetting.  Being sorry DOES NOT have to mean acknowledging liability.

4.  Be up front and tell the community about bad news they will discover.   It’s always better when people hear it straight from industry (i.e., the facts) rather than the exaggerated claims they will hear from anti-CSG activists.
Don’t wait for the exaggerated claims to come from journo’s, activists, etc.

5.  Consider telling bad news that people won’t discover.  Firstly, the information may become public later - which will be worse.  Damaging information is far more damaging when it appears to have been kept secret.  When you reveal damaging information that you didn’t have to reveal, you’ll get a public perception for transparency.   People begin to notice when you do something wrong because you say so.  It follows that when you don’t say so, you didn’t do anything wrong!

6.  Always provide information that isn’t bad but might sound bad to the community.  Benign information that may sound worrying will worry people if they hear it from eco-activists - who will always exaggerate the size, scale or magnitude of the problem to drive their agenda.  The community will be much less outraged to hear about perceived problems from you.

7.  Don’t keep anyone in the dark.  Convey news equally to everyone.  All critics - even those in the anti-CSG camp should be on the “must tell “A” list”.  They’ll be upset and angry to be left off!  Give an early heads up to anyone the media may call.  Anyone not in the know will choose to sound critical rather than ignorant.

8.   Whenever there is bad news, people look to one of four explanations -
A. You were unlucky (act of god),
B. You were the victim (somebody else did it),
C. You made a mistake (you’re stupid),
D. You did it on purpose (you’re evil).
Admitting to your mistakes (you were stupid) stops people believing you’re evil, which is always the worst promoter of outrage and the one that the anti-CSG activists will promote.  

9.  Whenever you tell someone something that you know they will have difficulty believing (usually good news from an oil company), tell them they’re going to have trouble believing it.  In other words, acknowledge incredibility.  Acknowledge that the burden of proof is on you.  “I know, that’s what I thought when I started here and it took weeks for me to be convinced I was wrong”.

10.  Tell people the good news about fracking and the benefits of CSG recovery.  It may not be believed but tell people the good news anyway.

 

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