In recent weeks, oil and gas companies have been granted licenses to explore 27 sites across England for natural resources. One of their primary goals will be to look at the viability of fracking in these areas. With the announcement that a further 132 blocks of land are being considered for future licenses, this is big news for the UK’s fledgling fracking industry.
According to its supporters, fracking could trigger a golden-age for the British energy industry, enhancing energy security and slashing costs for energy users. These arguments are substantiated by the experience of our neighbour from across the pond which is now less reliant on Middle Eastern oil than it once was.
But, public opinion about the controversial process is decidedly hostile; mistrust is widespread and deeply rooted.
In this challenging market, the role of the communications professional is key. Fracking companies need robust communications and credible stakeholder engagement strategies if they’re to change perceptions and generate wider public support.
But this is a tough task. Grassroots groups are strongly opposed to the process and it will take a carefully considered approach to have an impact on their influence over local communities. Positive profile building on the national stage could also help in starting to shift public perception.
There’s a long road ahead. But, the fracking industry should be heartened by others who have faced similar opposition and overcome it.
Before policy changes reformed the industry in the mid 1990s, energy from waste had an unhealthy reputation. Once associated with waste-hungry incinerators that stifled recycling efforts and spewed out noxious fumes to boot, it has since – albeit very slowly - managed to establish a much improved and better understood reputation as a low-emission supplier of clean energy.
Time will tell if fracking can gain a similar foothold in the UK. Although it’s likely to always face a vocal opposition, a resilient communications programme may help to engage the public and build greater support for an industry that looks like it might be here to stay.
Isabelle Young is an account executive at Camargue