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The Power of Social Permitting for Oil & Gas Companies

Oil and gas companies are critical to our economy, security, and future. 

However, when launching a new project, it’s all-too-common for industry professionals to neglect engaging key stakeholders early and often. And unfortunately, the industry has been plagued with problems that have damaged community perception and trust. From the historic BP Oil Spill to the more recent Keystone Pipeline leak, communities are wary of letting a new rig or pipeline move into their neighborhood. 

And this sense of unease and mistrust often creates costly project delays, lengthy litigation, project changes, and lost opportunity. In order to succeed, you must prioritize stakeholder engagement through social permitting. Here’s how social permitting can help you engage key community members, city officials, and local businesses to make your project a success. 

1. Understand Your Key Stakeholders 

You’ll have a lot of audiences to consider when starting a new project. But not all audiences are created equal. The first step of social permitting will allow you and your team to discover what stakeholders have the power to propel or delay your project with public opposition. It starts with asking the right questions to the right people. 

  • What can you learn from those who have either succeeded or failed in your market before? 
  • How did the media frame previous projects? 
  • Where do local elected officials stand on your issues? 
  • What activist groups might oppose your construction? 
  • Who are the people your team must befriend? 

2. Create Space for Powerful Conversations 

The public has a voice. From social media to online forums, your oil & gas project will get discussed and debated. These discussions will be passionate and public. Your brand and project will get mentioned. 

You need to not only be in these conversations but start them—inviting people to offer concerns and questions. Remember, people expect to know who you are, what you intend to do, and how long you’ll operate. 

Social permitting isn’t merely providing others with information, but rather it encourages a dialogue for all parties to share real objections and sincere concerns. Instead, social permitting works directly with others to share information, explore options, and to resolve arguments where possible. Put simply, social permitting allows you to facilitate powerful conversation instead of trying to force a project through—potentially costing your organization millions of lost dollars. 

3. Change the Perception of Key Stakeholders. 

Historically, the general public has been left out of so many key decisions that affect their towns, economies, families, and the environment. This attitude has created a rampant sense of distrust in the places you hope to build. 

But by engaging your key stakeholders early, you’ll be able to understand what motivates the public and what concerns they have about your oil & gas project. Ultimately, this will provide your business with a proven path to achieving trust and support for your next infrastructure project.

Don’t neglect the people that drag your project down or lift your mission up. By investing in social permitting, your infrastructure project can start smoothly, finish quickly, have minimal opposition, and face fewer legal hurdles on your way. 


About the author

Todd Gregory is a Vice President at Saxum, a digital agency obsessed for good. You can follow him on LinkedIn for insights into energy & infrastructure, digital innovation, and revenue marketing.