PR in the age of offshore collaboration

A revolution of oil and gas working practices is transforming the role of PR in sector, as Sarah Wolf explains. 

In his influential 2014 report, UKCS Maximizing Recovery, Sir Ian Wood underlined the importance of collaboration offshore.

This, he said, was vitally needed to increase value and opportunities for all parties.

His government-commissioned findings on how to arrest declining productivity and exploration levels have had a huge impact on the oil & gas sector since.

They are also changing the way we, as oil and gas PR specialists, work with our clients.

While alliances in the industry have always existed, they were often strained or weak due to commercial sensitivities and a separation of technologies which are now interconnected digitally.

Since 2014 we have seen stronger partnerships emerging between organisations and also among sites and departments working on the same projects.

The previous challenges of low oil prices and adjusting to digitalisation have brought organisations closer together. Collaboration enables them to share the opportunities that come from new insights – and also the burden of costs.

At Admiral we’ve witnessed this at close quarters through our global work with ABB, the Fortune 500 technology firm whose interests include power, heavy industry and automation.

It is involved in major offshore projects around the world, such as the vast Johan Castberg field off Norway.

Its technology and software systems bring multiple sites, disciplines and organisations together under the umbrella of multi-partnered projects.

Our work has included supporting the roll out of a global network of Collaborative Operations Centres which connect people across organisations in a new way.

A key feature is ABB’s cross-industry digital platform. It enables operators to access systems, solutions and services that provide insights that improve their processes.

Through clever analytics, areas where improvements can be made are identified, prioritised and solved.

This area of ABB’s work is emblematic of the increased influence of digital and data-driven technology in breaking inter-organisational and departmental barriers.

Data that was previously generated but restricted to one particular silo or another is now being shared and acted upon.

In PR terms, this means we have more valuable industry-wide insight to feed into stories, white papers and comment pieces.

And, the willingness to collaborate which is sweeping through the sector means professional audiences and hungrier than ever to read this type of content.

Amid tough conditions and the enduring impact of the Wood report, oil and gas players are keen to work together to help each other to succeed.

Sharing in-depth analysis, as facilitated by PR specialists, is an important part of enabling this.

The age of big data and digitalisation is also changing the remit of oil and gas PR partners.

Internal communications must increasingly focus on educating staff in new ways of working.

Organisations are putting in place innovative digital strategies to streamline their operations and increase productivity.

Their positive influence could be severely limited, however, if staff in every department fail to understand them.

It is up to us to ensure all personnel are fully aware of, and committed to, digital strategies.

The rise of automation and sophisticated data capture and analysis technologies also has major implications for crisis management.

Ever-more advanced digital and automated systems are being used to improve the safety of offshore vessels and rigs. They also reduce the risk of environmental disasters.

In preparing oil and gas clients for potential crises, is there a plan B if these sophisticated technologies fail? Also, is there a danger that automation could lead to complacency? With the risk of human error being minimised, what happens when technology is not responding?

On the other hand, increased data flows certainly help to identify, recreate and test crisis scenarios.

With new offshore digital and data innovations coming on board by the week, we are regularly updating our knowledge in this field.

The way our clients operate is continually changing and, therefore, so is the way we support them.

We look forward to hearing about the very latest technologies that will influence our clients’ work at the various oil and gas trade shows in our diary in the months ahead.

Sarah Wolf is an Admiral Associate