How to handle negativity online


"Conversations pertaining to the oil and gas industry right now are toxic, to say the least," says Blake Jackson, Social Media Coordinator for Chesapeake Energy.

Blake spoke today at a Ragan communications conference hosted at SAS headquarters in Cary, NC. In an environment where conversations about the energy industry tend to focus on big energy, environmental concerns and lobbyists in Washington, Blake says Chesapeake's commitment to online transparency is changing the way the oil and gas industry communicates.

Instead of relying on press coverage - which is often focused on the negative - Chesapeake is participating in individual conversations online at the national, regional and local levels.

How do they do it? They use a team of three full-time social media specialists and six part-time community managers who respond to customer concerns, plan engaging communications activities and coordinate a corporate presence across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other sites. The team also identifies experts in various departments around the company to answer technical questions online when needed, and they support friends of the company who are active in social media.

Friends of Chesapeake include "Trucker Desiree" who podcasts and blogs about natural gas and "Aunt Paige," an employee's spouse who often comes to the defense of the company on Facebook before the community managers do - because she cares and is passionate about the good the company is doing.

"A lot of people have valid questions about the industry," says Blake, and his team is dedicated to answering them honestly and educationally with integrity. "Chesapeake has been in the lead to help change the tenor of the conversation," says Blake. "We have to honor every voice, no matter how big it is."

Tips from Blake include:

  • Facilitate the conversation rather than reacting to it. Create a place for people to engage with your company where you also have information about the brand. If appropriate, when conversations start elsewhere, invite people into your realm to talk about it further.
  • Recognize that your brand extends to the individual. "We are Chesapeake the brand, but we're also Chesapeake the corporate citizen and Chesapeake the guy on the phone. You have to understand how your brand is perceived at the individual level," says Blake.
  • Admit that you can learn something from the people you communicate with online. Sometimes they can even have good ideas for your business.
  • Find and empower a community leader. You cannot have every tweet or post run up the chain of command before it goes out. Trust community leaders to make decisions on their own.
  • Make ROI revolve around community wellness and getting new people to respond. Reach out to new segments when communications get stale.
  • Engage and inform families and friends of employees. "If you're not interacting with spouses and friends of employees, then you're missing a huge opportunity at brand evangelism," says Blake. "These are the people who will come to your defense when you're taking the heat."
  • Treat every gripe, concern or question with respect, and demonstrate an interest in your audience. Really engage with people one-on-one and interact with them.

About Author

Alison Bolen

Editor of Blogs and Social Content

+Alison Bolen is an editor at SAS, where she writes and edits content about analytics and emerging topics. Since starting at SAS in 1999, Alison has edited print publications, Web sites, e-newsletters, customer success stories and blogs. She has a bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism from Ohio University and a master’s degree in technical writing from North Carolina State University.

1 Comment

  1. Chris Hemedinger on

    I spoke with Blake a few times during the conference. I wish I could have attended his presentation yesterday!
    He's got a strong passion for his brand and for the role of social media in communicating with customers and the public. How do you improve and maintain your brand loyalty? One engagement, one customer at a time. There is no substitute for that personal touch when working with customers.
    Thanks for the blog post on this!

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