What are you doing to ensure the industry is perceived accurately?
Politics in the 21st century is, more than ever before, about images, impressions, and perceptions. In the new Facebook and Twitter-saturated world we inhabit, opinions become facts in the blink of an eye, and emotion seems to matter more than cold, hard, boring facts. It’s true having an ill-informed celebrity declare chinooks are evidence of environmental catastrophe doesn’t help, but what about other perceptions?
Everyone sees the world through his or her own lens, and generally, that lens distorts what we perceive so it fits our personal beliefs, values, and worldview. This “perception is reality” phenomenon is the way our brains are wired. It’s an adaptation linked to human survival.
Business columnist for The New Yorker, James Surowiecki, notes in his bestseller, “The Wisdom Of Crowds”, numerous examples where popular opinion reveals a truth the “elites” on either end of a question often miss. There’s a collective wisdom in our society that seems to suggest the crowd knows best. So, what does the crowd see when it views this industry?
• What does that big, heavy-duty pickup (with a company logo on it!) charging down the highway at 20 or 30 kph over the posted limit do for the perception of the industry?
• What does a pipeline leak, and more importantly the pipeline company’s reaction to it, do for perception of the industry?
• What do drug and alcohol problems in remote communities do for the perception of the industry?
Sure, these examples may be outliers and don’t represent what the majority of people in the industry are doing. However, for people with a certain worldview, they reinforce a perception the industry isn’t a good steward of the environment, doesn’t care about the rules, and doesn’t care about the people or the communities where it operates.
The facts, those boring numbers, reveal quite the opposite is true. The industry as a whole DOES care about the environment, respects the rules, and tries to be a bulwark in the community. But, the evidence of a few bad examples often overshadows the facts. And, perceptions are formed.
Changing perceptions can change reality. It takes time, but a focus on showing the true face of the industry can shift general perceptions. It’s really incumbent on us – everyone who works in and around the industry – to think in terms of perceptions. What do people see when we’re at work, travelling to and from work, or doing after work? It’s important to highlight and showcase the best of what we do and to make sure we truly embody what’s best about this industry. It’s equally important we condemn behaviours and practices, and there are no shortage of them, that taint the industry. Doing nothing is tacit approval. Crowds have wisdom, and if the crowd says we’re not doing things the way we ought to be, those perceptions have to come from somewhere.
So, what are you doing, individually and as a company, to makes sure the public sees the true face of the industry?