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Utica Shale Players Can Stand Out from the Crowd

When he was CEO of Chesapeake Energy, the colorful Aubrey McClendon once said the Utica Shale was “the biggest thing to hit Ohio since the plow.” Since making that grand statement, McClendon left Chesapeake and returned to the Utica with more than $1 billion in investment via a new entity, American Energy Partners, LP.

He joins a growing list of energy companies investing in the Utica. Count Antero, Baker Hughes, Devon Energy, Gulfport, Halliburton, Hess Corp., MarkWest Energy Partners, NiSource and Schlumberger among the companies investing heavily. They join manufacturers such as Exterran, Timken, U.S. Steel and Vallourec jockeying to serve one of the most promising shale plays in the country.

With all this investment, a rapidly growing mass of largely positive reporting is emerging from the Utica, covering its 133 pipelines, 887 well permits and 557 drilled wells. A Google News search for “Utica Shale” generates 5,090 results. Questions remain, of course, regarding the Utica’s long-term viability, but time and an expanding network of pipelines and processing plants are extinguishing those doubts.

One challenge organizations face when they are part of a growing sector, however, is how to distinguish themselves from the pack and communicate effectively to important audiences such as investors, potential customers and employees, local communities, public officials, regulators and the media. Failing to separate from the crowd can adversely impact new business discussions, hiring, community relationships and employee morale.

A sustainable communications program can be a powerful tool that will help distinguish your organization and contribute to heightened business activity.

Here are five questions to consider when creating such a program:

  1. Do you have an effective crisis communications plan that stresses internal and external communications, including protocols to address the media? There is no sense investing in a communications effort if you don’t have a plan to protect your brand in the event of an accident.
  2. Do you communicate regularly with and support the local community? If you are not part of the local community, you are not likely regarded as a local asset. Such an image can impact recruitment efforts and hamper ongoing business dealings.
  3. Do you have a spokesperson who can interact effectively with the local, regional and state media? News media coverage is one avenue that allows firms to communicate credibly with large, valued audiences. Even though the media are struggling, they still offer one of the most effective modes of mass communications.
  4. Do your website and social media outreach adequately tell your story and trigger audience engagement? The website should be innovative, attractive and provide easily digestible information that creates a valuable first impression and engages your target audiences. Your social media strategies should complement the site, communicate your values and catalyze community engagement.
  5. Do you have materials that effectively communicate your activities? Dix & Eaton recently created a Utica Shale Fact Sheet to distinguish the Utica from other shale formations, outline the billions of dollars in investment that Northeast Ohio is attracting, and how the infusion of capital is impacting the regional economy overall.

How can you tell if your strategic business communications are communicating your story effectively?

We measure the impact of the Utica Shale Fact Sheet by the reaction it generates. Whenever we show it to journalists, business owners and others, the response is almost always the same: “Can I keep this?”

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