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How Visual Communications Can Aid in the Oil and Gas Energy Transition

ADD TO COLLECTION on emotive storytelling in the energy industry

How Visual Communications Can Aid in the Oil and Gas Energy Transition

Attending the Offshore Europe 2019 event gave us profoundly striking insights as to how communication is key for energy transitions at this moment in time. As a company who specialises in conveying complex messages through emotive and visual storytelling in animation and design, we have a very strong understanding of how organisations in the industry need to change perceptions now, to stay ahead of the curve and work towards their long-term future income.

Moving forward, ‘oil and gas’ is carrying heavier negative connotations and is increasingly being perceived as ‘dirty’ terminology. Companies who are still associated with it are being left behind, with no obvious innovations pushing them ahead of the game. The negative side effects of still being seen in this light include, most importantly, public perception. Having a low public perception, especially amongst the younger generation, creates a knock-on effect on recruitment and taints future possibilities of growth and technological innovation, that comes with the next generation of employees.

According to a recent study, the appeal of careers in the industry has dropped from 44% in millennials to only 26% of Generation Z saying they are interested – with an astonishing 39% of Gen Z saying they find it completely unappealing. However, on a more hopeful note, the same study found that over 40% of this generation just don’t know enough about the industry, due to a strong and growing disconnection – something that can be improved on. This disconnect has been widened due to the ‘dirty’ association the public has built over recent years, and by the lack of effective emotive communication from the industry to correct this. Erasing the stigma that, in 2019, the industry is now seen as outdated, could both propel companies forward and generate interest within the younger generations, revealing the vast opportunities that lie within the Energy industry for technological innovation and career fulfilment.

Another major factor for addressing the perceptions is that shareholders are keen to see investment in the transition to ‘cleaner’ energy, to protect the future value of these companies. Ultimately, there is a shelf-life for oil and gas, and long-term investors are increasingly requiring a plan for a future where production is greatly reduced. According to insightful industry experts on the panel at the Energy Voice Tracking Transition event, whether companies can actively demonstrate and communicate their investment into the transition is already affecting value retention of organisations and the value of deals being made. A study published by the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies claims ‘uncertainties associated with energy transition have already started to alter the risk preferences of investors in fossil fuel projects. Investors are demanding a much higher hurdle rate in order to invest in long cycle oil and coal projects’.

For many companies in the Energy sector, steps are already being taken towards the energy transition – the major players can be seen buying up renewable assets as a means of future-proofing, with green investment nearly doubling in 2018, from the 2010 to 2017 period – so why is this still not changing the public and shareholder perceptions? It all comes down to effective communication – or lack of – and that is where has some expertise to share.

Visual Communication

The connotations of a brand name immediately inform the mood for audiences reading about your organisation. That is why many major players in the industry have already re-branded from ‘oil and gas companies’ to ‘energy companies.’ Just last year, Norway’s state energy company rebranded from Statoil to Equinor, joining more than eight companies to rename since 2015, including Neste Oil dropping the oil to become Neste, and GDF Suez (standing for Gaz de France) rebranding to Engie. This should act as a domino effect throughout the wider industry; especially for manufacturers and service providers surrounding Oil and Gas – rebranding to cater for the energy industry not only can help with perception, but could also lead to expansions into new markets. As an additional incentive, rebranding can have a really positive effect on business – whilst a name or messaging change can help somewhat with perception, a visual rebrand does a lot more to engage and reinforce the change of direction. The success of visual re-brands in changing audience perception has been seen across sectors, from retail, Carlsberg saw a 170% increase in distribution after a rebrand, through to B2B, where software brand, Advanced saw a sales increase of 239% – more than justifying their ROI.

Re-branding has already seen successes in helping with the recruitment issue for Equinor – Students who answered the survey after news of the name change found Statoil to be between five percent and 10 percent more attractive as an employer.6 Whilst a rebrand is a great start to changing perceptions and has already had positive effects for organisations in the Energy industry, this can have a risk as being taken as simply ‘greenwashing’. One way to help avoid this is with a change in communication approach, to emotively convey the real efforts being made in the transition, including green acquisition and technological innovation, in areas such as carbon capture.

Emotive Storytelling in the Energy Industry

So, whilst branding is important, it’s as much about telling an emotive story. Changing perceptions through visual storytelling is valuable; creating loyalty, turning a brand into a legacy, and defining a robust market. One of the things visual storytelling does best is simplifying the complexity of a business vision and their purpose; “companies that convey purpose and value can outperform their counterparts in stock price by a factor of 12 and have a profit performance ratio 750x higher than companies without shared values.” To achieve this success, capturing the audience’s attention and empathy is key, and that’s why visual communication is one of the most important factors in this case. Perceptions are made with emotion over rational thought – there is a reason that studies have found that ‘Out of 1,400 successful advertising campaigns, those with purely emotional content performed about twice as well (31% vs. 16%) as those with only rational content.’ For organisations in the Energy industry, communicating the transition journey in an emotive way, to truly win over public perception is becoming ever more of a must-have.

Internal Communications to inform Culture Change

It is what’s on the inside that counts. Public perception is important, but it can’t just be smoke and mirrors, rather the transition needs to be communicated as an internal shift also. An internally shared culture helps maintain the overall brand image and can be done so through strong visual internal communications. The benefits of this drive a more productive working environment – a study over a 10 year period found that organisations with an engaged culture saw 15% greater employee productivity. Additionally, it greatly increases chances of employee retention – A Columbia University study shows that the likelihood of job turnover at an organisation with rich company culture is a mere 13.9 percent, whereas the probability of job turnover in poor company cultures is 48.4 percent. So why are visual internal communications relevant? A scientific trial has recently found two-thirds (67%) of employees are better at completing tasks when communicated with by video or imagery rather than by plain text. Additionally, 38% of those employees believe they would be more engaged if company communications were more inspiring. Increasingly, internal cultures are becoming more public with the advent of social media in business communications, and the call for transparency has meant that company cultures have become synonymous with their external brand reputation. This means now more than ever that having employees in line with your internal culture ensures that your brand representation is consistent.

Your internal communications are a vital way of protecting your brand reputation, employee retention, inspiring more productivity and driving future recruitment – using visual communication is a tangible way to improve these metrics and drive your internal culture change.

Visual Content for Effective Training

Throughout the transition across the brand, the organisation will be branching into new realms of renewables and new technologies, meaning training is vital. Making it quick and effective is essential to the change, and video can be the perfect format to save time and costs, as well as being eye-catching and memorable. It comes back to simplifying complex messages, getting complicated ideas across concisely and helping employees to quickly learn and progress. It has been shown that employees are likely to remember 20% of what they learn through reading but will remember 80% of what they see and do. This is especially true for workers under 40; in a recent study, 53% were reported to find it easier to access training materials if presented visually and to want more video content. Visual communications, increasingly with immersive technologies such as VR or AR, are becoming a necessary part of the training toolkit for the Energy Industry, especially as extreme situations can be simulated visually, without the risk. With increasing ventures into offshore renewables and carbon capture, visual training can be the perfect solution to diversify your employees.

The energy transition does definitely present challenges for the oil and gas industry – but it can also be seen as a huge opportunity for business growth – especially when harnessed with strong communications, to change public perceptions, diversify offering and grow the industry as a whole, beyond the limits of oil and gas.

We are experts as conveying complex messages via animation and design, call us for a no-obligation workshop session.

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