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Communicating the Basics

  September/October 2018 / Vol 8 Issue 6

Communicating the Basics

By: Brittany Ramos, Orion Strategies


Having solid fundamentals are key to any activity – be it physical, mental or emotional. Playing a guitar is impossible without an understanding of how to strike the strings to elicit a certain chord. Calculus is impossible without an understanding of arithmetic.

And yet, once we achieve these basics in any activity, we often continue on a path of constantly advancing through more difficult challenges. Rarely do we take a step back and appreciate the basics that brought us here. We become comfortable with what currently is happening and move forward from this point without retrospection.

All of this comes into play when the oil and natural gas industry talks about what it does and tells its individual stories. The current environment is vastly different than it was at the start of the Marcellus and Utica plays in 2008. Over the last decade, technologies have advanced and appear to constantly be improving on what the industry has achieved. Regulations and legislation governing the daily operations of companies across the supply chain have been introduced, rewritten or removed. The only true constant in the last ten years has been constant change.

And because of that, it is so easy to be swept up in what is happening in 2018 and moving forward into the future. Such as what multiple ethane crackers in the tristate region would mean for communities up and down the Ohio River. Or what would happen if pipeline capacity opened up to New England and eastern Canada. Or even guesses on which operator will be next lay claim to having the longest lateral in the basin.

But we cannot forget to talk about the basics.

Why is the production of oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids necessary for our standard of living? What products do we use daily that would not be possible without hydrocarbons? How does the economic impact from the industry truly ripple out into the community through subcontractors, restaurants, insurance companies, schools and nonprofit organizations? What does it actually mean to be sitting on top of the life-changers that are the Marcellus and Utica shales?

Communication from companies and related associations within the industry should always be prepared to come back to these ideas whenever the audience calls for it. And, a solid case can be made that conversations, fact sheets, websites and other ways of communicating these basics are in constant need, simply due to turnover rate in both the audience and the communicator.

For example, a total of 28 new legislators were sworn in for the 2017-2108 legislative cycle in Pennsylvania and an additional three were sworn in during special elections. That is a total of 31 new elected officials in just one year who are now determining issues that directly impact this industry and its operations through taxation, regulation and legislation.

Of course, turnover affects more than just legislators. Political changes often come with changes within regulatory departments at a state level. Turnover rates of reporters are notoriously high as individuals often jump from beat to beat and to other media markets as they climb their career ladders. And one of the most overlooked opportunities to really highlight the fundamentals is with new employees within the industry and those who may not be exposed to this information day in and day out. Understanding the core concepts should start at home with the industry’s direct employees who can then speak intelligently and passionately as to why their jobs matter.

A fantastic recent example of this return to basics is a new report from the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) called “Fuel and Petrochemical Supply Chains – Moving the Fuels and Products That Power Progress.” AFPM is a national association whose members include refiners and petrochemical manufacturers who transform feedstocks such as crude oil and natural gas liquids into the fuels and consumer goods that Americans use every day. AFPM’s report takes the approach of gathering all of the background information on transportation by rail, truck, boat and pipeline and combines them into an effective, 38-page primer.

Rob Benedict, the Director of Transportation & Infrastructure at AFPM, explained the report was not designed to contain any new research or survey data. The goal was to create a document which could be a basic building block of knowledge by amassing the information from the U.S. Department of Energy, The American Society of Civil Engineers and other publicly available sources.

Further, the language in the report is specifically designed to be easy to understand by a wide variety of audiences. Industry jargon and buzzwords are notably missing and the lifecycle of transportation in the industry is condensed into a one-page chart showing the flow of oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids throughout their lifecycle.

With the report compiled and easily adaptable to numerous audiences, AFPM has also embarked on a coordinated and integrated communications campaign to make sure it is viewed by as many individuals as possible – working with its government affairs and communications departments to follow the report with outreach to the media and legislators while creating social media content for the general public. There is even a podcast series with leading industry experts that discuss the importance of each segment of midstream infrastructure in the content of the refining and petrochemical industries. This industry is vast, complicated and often technical – especially to those who have no previous experience. And even that experience is often limited to certain aspects and without equal knowledge across the supply chain or even various departments within the same company.

Those of us working in the industry or with the industry in any capacity will greatly advance the understanding of the importance of what we do by coming back to the fundamentals as often as possible. If we do not promote an understanding of why the Marcellus and Utica shale industries are one of the biggest life changers in modern history, then who will?


For more information, contact Brittany Ramos at