By Hussein Boffu
The oil and gas industry is of one of the major public and private sector in Tanzania’s economy.
Oil and gas companies play a vital role in helping residents of local communities in their operational region.
The industry, as a whole, has gone a great length in protecting the environment, and maintaining the health and the safety of employees and local communities in the area they operate.
In spite of its major benefits, there are issues that oil and gas companies must address.
The industry still has a negative press and a negative perception by the people.
We are in the social media age and a lot of misinformation about this industry is being spread on the internet, especially on social media networks.
The oil and gas industry is being painted black for lack of security and inability to protect the environment as well as its less contribution to local communities. Not all these emotional outbursts are true.
Oil companies have been (and are still) identifying those who are good in science and technology and sending them to great institutions of learning.
To support local communities in their operational region, Orca-owned PanAfrican Energy Tanzania (PAET), which operates a small offshore Songo Songo gas field, recently sponsored ten students from Songo Songo Island to attend secondary school in Dar es Salaam.
They also sent three teachers to attend the Teacher’s Training College in Dar es Salaam.
This deed did not create a sensation neither did it go viral.
In addition, Norwegian Statoil in collaboration with Dar es Salaam Maritime Institue (DMI) has trained 220 fishermen in the Mtwara region.
The training aims to help fishermen in the region to operate safely with the fishing vessel at sea. Talk about empowering locals to be better and efficient at the job they love to do.
Oil and gas companies should create the time to explain to the media, members of general public, and industry opponents what they are doing and how the industry is positively impacting Tanzania’s economy.
This communication could be in form of press releases, TV interviews, newspaper interviews, intentionally calling the press for a conference, directing attention to the good done in TV and radio ads, and many more.
Failure to do so is tantamount to losing public trust and company reputation.
One way oil and gas companies can get their message out there is using social media networks. By utilizing Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. There are people trained in this field.
Their job is to manage, maintain, and create engagement on an oil and gas company’s social media profiles.
Some ten years ago, social media engagement was not an issue in the oil and gas industry. Today, the public wants to know each company’s operation even if not directly involved in the companies.
They want to know if they make room for interns, fresh graduates, and locals. Probably, feminists also want to know how many women are employed in these companies and how empowered they are.
With the high speed of information dissemination in this jet age, it is no longer possible to do nothing when an accident happens and expect it to go unnoticed.
To win public trust, oil and gas companies should be completely transparent when a bad incident occurs in the company.
They should communicate honestly and openly.
They should commiserate with the families of the victims and, yes, compensate them.
They should let the world know that the accident was just that: an accident, unintentional and not due to saving cost of production or negligence. That is the best way to maintain the company’s reputation.
It is no longer possible to invest thousands of dollars on TV ads hoping it will convince the public that the industry is doing great work.
Oil and gas companies must have a presence on social media networks. In fact, they should be their own publishers and engage in conversations about their operations and the industry as a whole, rather than rely on media outlets to get words out about their works.
They should control the information people receive and assimilate about their companies and not wait, hoping a media outlet will be kind enough to do it.
We are living in the best time of human history where virtually every piece of information is at our fingertips.
The social media can be of great help if the industry will incorporate an efficient communication system to alert the communities about their operations and especially during a crisis.
And the inverse is also true. It can ruin the oil and gas industry reputation if they do not use them to send a message about their work.
By Hussein Boffu