ORM and the Environment: Environmental Reputation for Oil and Gas Companies

Although the title may be a bit confusing, today’s juncture serves as the perfect opportunity for us at ReputationDefender to establish the evident link between online reputation and environmentalism. Do a company’s polluting emissions harm its reputation? Many people would actually agree upon it, arguing that both customers and suppliers are less likely to do business with organizations that overlook the importance of being environmentally responsible. Many years ago, perhaps a decade, a research carried out in 2005 presented compelling evidence that dictated otherwise: the only adverse consequence suffered by companies that would disregard the importance of environmental regulation was the legal penalty and the costs commonly associated with cleanup and compliance.

But this is 2017: a massive iceberg just broke off from Antarctica and is drifting out to the sea. Things have changed environmentally speaking, and even though conventional wisdom would dictate that customers and suppliers will never punish companies for their emissions through the marketplace, the reality is in fact diametrically opposed. Today, adopting a leaner and greener standpoint has a tremendous impact on a company’s online reputation; today, it is not nonsensical to see individuals preferring not to do business with brands or companies that do not comply with today’s environmental recommendations. In fact, some people are reluctant to work for one of these companies, and even some suppliers disregard the possibility of selling their goods to polluters. Thus, it is clear that disregarding the impact today’s green trend has on a company’s online reputation does more harm than good: polluters will end up facing lower revenues and, eventually, higher costs and overhead. And it just snowballs from there: lower profits prevent companies from starting a proper online reputation strategy and complying with environmental regulations to remedy such situation, causing what is called a «reputational penalty».

It is undeniable that today’s digital era runs on different trends; however, given the fact that trends tend to die inexorably, raising awareness about climate change is not only a must but something positive for a brand. Companies doing businesses today should strive to demonstrate an original and genuine concern for the environment or suffer the consequences a negative online and corporate reputation can bestow upon them. Today’s world is full of multinational companies that live under constant evaluation, and such evaluation is not as intense as in the hydrocarbon industry: oil and gas companies.

Today’s juncture suggests that when it comes to addressing oil and gas companies, the first thing to assess is their environmental practices, as they must always be second to none; however, it is arguably questionable that today’s rising antagonism around these companies means that they can do much better. Oil and gas companies can, and actually need to, do a better job at convincing their audience and people in general that they are not just trying to remedy the consequences of constantly being under such evaluation; that they are not merely responding to the glare of such accusing spotlight.

Oil and gas companies, just like most everyone else on this planet, ought to show genuine concern about safeguarding and protecting the environment for future generations and their own; nonetheless, it is also important to point out, quite rightly by the way, that the term environmentalist has been entirely deformed by those with more radical and extreme points of view. In that sense, it is quite obvious that it is almost impossible to convince all of the earth’s environmentalists and green trends advocates; however, the basic idea is to reach out to the widest possible audience conveying a compelling message about being environmentally friendly.

Image courtesy of Pixabay at Pexels.com

When it comes to improving a company’s online reputation, especially if it is not as good as one might expect, the only possible way to achieve it is by going the extra mile; and taking that extra step that is found beyond the boundaries of that is usually expected from organizations: going beyond the law and regulations. And this is quite important: in the past, companies that were practically forced to comply with environmental regulations were highly open to falling victim of the media should anything bad happened, which caused them to assume a defensive stance—basically the worst case scenario when it comes to strengthening online reputation management.

In that sense, it is way better for oil and gas companies to show a proactive stance instead of always starting a feud with the press: public perceptions, irrespective of whether they are accurate or not, represent public perceptions, and, subsequently, they create regulations. Online Reputation Management is key for every company and every industry, thus, given the fact that it is affected by what the audience perceives as positive—which is true in this case—, embracing today’s environmental trend will not only be beneficial for a company’s ORM strategy but also will provide additional monetary benefits.

* Featured Image courtesy of Pixabay at Pexels.com

Why has the drone industry such a bad online reputation?

The more disruptive the technological advances in our society, the more involved are their online reputation. This has happened to the steam engine, nuclear power, the Internet, and it has also happened to the drones during the current decade. When we talk about drones, it is impossible not to think about Star Wars and those epic battles waged by armies of machines, but in reality, the drones are not simply reduced to their military use. In fact, these unmanned machines have been particularly useful in rescuing lost or seriously injured hikers in hard-to-reach areas, as well as in the control of destructive forest fires, and in data collection in nuclear accidents, such as Fukushima, a few years ago. These are some of the thousands of non-military uses of drones, however, no matter how incredible they are, the public is not able to dissociate these remote-controlled crafts from the well-known images of bombings in Iraq or Syria, as well as the espionage activities for war. This is one of the main reasons for the bad online reputation of this industry.

So far, most drones for civilian use are small and – apparently – inoffensive. Although most were built for recreational use by buyers, many of them are used daily for data collection (for example, to measure the boundaries of an extensive property, to measure glacier displacement, to observe volcanic activity, among others.) But despite the technological advantages offered by drones, the market for these products has not been exploited to its full potential, and this is due to the unfavorable opinions of many people on the Internet about the risks to public safety, and the ease with which privacy (both physical and online) can be affected.

Media scandals are common. DJI, the world’s leading drone manufacturer, has been embroiled in an online reputation crisis due to a computer security breach. Because, among other reasons, some terrorist groups have been using drones from this company to execute their actions of espionage and bombing, DJI has taken control measures. Since this year, this Chinese company has developed a software update that forces users to indicate the geographical areas that they want to fly before using the drones; also, it checks the location of users and constantly downloads forbidden zones of flight. In case a user does not download the updates, the drone does not fly more than 164 feet away, or 98 feet in height, nor is it possible to do direct streaming.

Read also: Reconstructing a corporate Online Reputation, by ReputationDefender

This was partly due to the pressure from the authorities of several countries to comply with local and international standards. Nevertheless, a software already exists that allows DJI drones to fly through forbidden areas. This software allows you to bypass the height limits and even trick the GPS of DJI drones so that they can fly through airports, war zones, or even military installations. The software confuses the GPS of the drone to make it believe that it is flying over a safe zone, and it even makes it possible to break the limit of five hundred feet of height that DJI imposes to its drones.

The main security issue here lies in three main reasons. The first one is the immense availability of purchase of these drones. Years ago, those were items that only millionaires could afford, and they are now increasingly available to anyone (and that includes sociopaths, of course.) In addition, the great distances that these drones are able to travel without losing connection makes them a war tool difficult to control by the authorities. Finally, the versatility of these machines allows, for example, to drop a homemade bomb, or to take samples of chemical substances with the aim of stealing industrial secrets.

Image courtesy of Jeremy Keith at Flickr.com

Nonetheless, DJI has also been involved in another online reputation crisis, and this time has been due to the bad comments of its own users, especially in our country. Many of them believe that the main motivation for buying the advanced drones of this company is related to the great freedom it represents for them, and they believe that the limitations to the use of these products should come from local laws, rather than the company itself. It is a complicated case regarding who is right: Customers, or those who consider public safety and privacy.

These improvements will never be clean of controversy. Last year, the US army unveiled the production and use of insect-sized drones to carry out espionage activities in enemy territories during the current wars. These drones (some of them, the size of a mosquito,) can take DNA samples, take photos, record audio, and track a person’s location by GPS when getting into clothing or luggage. This can be a powerful weapon, or it can be seen as an Orwellian nightmare.

The problem is that if we compare the safety and privacy cons with the pros drones can offer, forbidding or limiting the use of these devices would mean a technological backwardness that could cost a lot of money and human lives.

Recommended: 9 Incredible Ways Drones Are Overcoming Their Bad Reputation

* Featured Image courtesy of Visual Hunt at Pexels.com

What has Volkswagen been doing to repair its online reputation?

The Diesel Gate case of Volkswagen, also known as the VW emissions scandal, has been one of the biggest online reputation crisis of the recent years. It happened two years ago after the United States Environmental Protection Agency discovered that the amounts of nitrogen oxides emitted by the TDI engines of this brand were much higher than those shown in the homologation tests. Volkswagen used a software that detected when the car was in the process of homologation to reduce pollutant emissions and thus pass the tests. There are still more than eleven million affected cars among the brands of the Volkswagen group, and therefore, this great company has been working on its online reputation.

Read also: The Volkswagen Online Reputation Challenge Just Begins, by ReputationDefender

Apparently, this company has not taken a real initiative to fix the problem. A large part of the actions that would help it to repair its damaged online reputation has been actually mandatory. At first, the company agreed to compensate its customers in the United States. Volkswagen has reached a court settlement: Giving customers the options for vehicle repair or giving the money back. The agreement was announced last year by the Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco. The agreement was conducted between US environmental authorities, consumers, and the state of California. It included substantial compensations for the consumers affected by the engine cracking. Volkswagen also pledged to create a second fund to alleviate the excessive emissions of nitrogen oxides, a product considered to be carcinogenic by health authorities.

However, while Volkswagen AG promised to distribute up to $ 10 billion to some 500,000 US vehicle owners, the nearly nine million customers in Europe would only get a one-hour visit with a dealer to repair their engines with a tube that regulates the flow of air or to receive a software update. The reason for this great disparity between the proposals came from the great differences existing in the legal and regulatory structures of both regions. Actions in Europe were constrained by factors ranging from the lack of collective lawsuits such as those in the United States to regulators who approved the repairs that turned out to be insufficient for their US counterparts.

Nevertheless, a Spanish judge forced the company to compensate the clients of that country. This did not happen without judicial disputes, though. In fact, Volkswagen’s legal representatives did not appear before a court hearing earlier this year in Madrid, which was seen as an immense scorn on the part of the German company, not only towards the Spanish authorities, but also to the clients who now have less appreciation for the Volkswagen brand and fueled hatred in the social media because of it. In Spain alone, there were more than six thousand five hundred affected. For this reason, the judges assured that this legal conflict would be solved by judicial decree and not by means of conciliations.

Recommended: Volkswagen’s Diesel Scandal Was 80 Years in the Making

In October of last year, a Spanish judge condemned this giant of the automotive industry to pay compensations. The judge forced Volkswagen Valladolid and Volkswagen Audi Spain to pay more than five thousand euros to an affected person who acquired an Audi Q5 model in 2013 for a price of fifty thousand euros in Valladolid. The owner of the vehicle demanded in the complaint that Volkswagen must deliver a vehicle of the same or higher quality, and, if not, that it must be repaired in order to compensate him for the damages suffered. This has already become a legal trend in Europe, particularly in Spain. Thousands of customers are furious, not only for the fraud committed by the Volkswagen group but for the refusal of this company to respond, unlike to the American customers.

This year another compensation was ordered. According to the ruling, Volkswagen-Audi Spain and a Salamanca dealer will have to compensate another customer for 10% of the price of their car. According to the ruling, the car brand has also been ordered to pay the costs of the legal process.

Image courtesy of BUND Bundesverband at Flickr.com

All this has forced this company to improve its image on the Internet. This year, the company president has announced the launch of a campaign together with other manufacturers in favor of diesel as a part of the solution to reduce the CO2 emissions worldwide. In the same way, Volkswagen has been repairing the damages of its bad reputation online by updating the software of 1.2, 1.6, and 2-liter diesel engines, so that they can comply with the emissions regulations. In the case of 1.6-liter engines, in addition to updating the software, VW has installed a current airflow transformer in front of the air mass sensor to direct the flow of air coming, and then improving the measurements.

This great challenge will take many years, taking into account the great crisis of online reputation that this company has gone through. The proper care of its digital image is the fundamental condition for millions of customers around the world to keep buying cars of this brand.

* Featured Image courtesy of Automobile Italia at Flickr.com

Reconstructing a corporate Online Reputation

We at ReputationDefender have previously stressed the importance of Online Reputation Management within specific industries; however, the truth is that every business and every organization—irrespective of whether it is public or private—ought to pay special attention to this issue, especially under today’s fast-paced and rapidly changing juncture. 

Of course, every industry handles its reputation differently, as techniques are often tailored to the industry’s nature, but, when considering today’s landscape as a whole, and given the fact that even governments fail to respond to the financial crisis and its aftermath, a company’s or a business’s online reputation has become increasingly important.

Companies with online reputation problems are more likely to suffer the fallout of public outrage, legislators, and regulatory entities. Moreover, the credibility of the public sector as a whole will mark its capability to participate in contentious measures such as protectionism, which, of course, has several implications for today’s worldwide economic landscape.

These premises have not gone unnoticed, and senior executives are more aware than ever of how important and serious this issue—this challenge—is. The vast majority of them acknowledge that some industries and sectors have perhaps dragged others into the realm of pejorative perceptions. It is not a secret that some companies in certain sectors—especially the financial industry—have treated consumers, shareholders, regulators, etc., in the most possible unfairly manner, and thus, this perception seems to have spanned over other industries as well.

This assumption, although eschatological and a bit exaggerated, is backed up with facts: in accordance with a survey of senior executives and C positions carried out in 2016, almost 80% of them asserted that public trust in their businesses has deteriorated. In fact, they also assert that the audience and their customers seem to trust corporations less now than they did in the past. These circumstances, nevertheless, are the consequences of not just the speed, volatility, and unexpectedness of today’s economy, but also of several changes within the reputation environment that were not acknowledged in time by companies and industries in general. Those changes include, of course, the evident decline of trust in media and advertising.

So, how to reconstruct a damaged online reputation and, moreover, regain the public’s trust? Now, more than ever before, it will be action-driven strategies the ones responsible for building a solid and strong reputation. 

Organizations and companies, in general, need to improve the way they have been carrying out their engagement with their clients; most businesses actually fail to listen good enough what is happening around them and end up missing the red flags associated with substantial ORM issues; however, all of these can be remedied by adopting and taking actions to reinstate their relationship with their customers, thusly going beyond traditional PR and basic ORM strategies.

By doing this effectively, companies and businesses, in general, will be able to step up their sophistication and their coordination when it comes to developing a solid and reliable online reputation management campaign. As of recent years, some businesses have started to use not only more strict levels of segmentation techniques to understand their customers better but also cross-functional teams to gather and collect enough and precise information so that they can respond much quicker to plausible online reputation threats. This suggests that the existence of barriers within companies is indeed detrimental for the business’s reputation: a bureaucratic culture prevents the organization to react and act against ORM issues; however, one vital aspect to getting past these corporate barriers is a committed senior leadership. From CEOs to the lady at the reception, all employees should strive to achieve the same ORM goal without delegating such responsibility to other people and coworkers. Bear in mind that this, although simple to understand, is what will allow companies cope with today’s no less than energized public. Today is the day when CEOs will finally bolster their reputations of their businesses: it is no less than their sole obligation.

Image courtesy of Miguel Á. Padriñán at Pexels.com

Free markets have dispersed the economic spectrum, which is why companies ought to pay special attention to the way they collect information about possible ORM threats and the way they analyze it. It is not a secret that the key to not falling victim of an ORM debacle is by acting soon before it happens and by taking the necessary actions to mitigate it. Some would still wonder, is it possible for companies to do that just by themselves? Well, developing alliances with new partners is not something nonsensical: governments, consumers, and other groups are highly important when it comes to listening to what is happening, which, of course, is the only way to develop preventive measures. It, however, demands higher levels of coordination. Levels that can be achieved by getting past corporate barriers and the dreary bureaucratic culture that prevents companies, organizations, institutions, and businesses from doing so.

* Featured Image courtesy of Unsplash at Pexels.com