Communicating the Basics

Having a solid grasp on the fundamentals is key to any activity- be it physical, mental, or emotional. You can’t impress your friends by playing their favorite song on the guitar without first learning the chords! Once the basics are mastered, they allow us to continue on a path towards achieving more difficult challenges, which in turn yield richer, further-reaching gains.

That said, it’s easy to forget to reflect on the basics when it matters most. 

As communicators, we see this come into play when assisting clients in telling their stories, discussing their business philosophies, and in developing their messaging. Experts in any field tend to gloss over all the hard work they put in to get to where they are! And that’s where we come in.

In the natural gas industry, for example, the current environment is vastly different than it was at the start of the Marcellus and Utica plays in 2008. Over the last decade, technologies have advanced and appear to constantly be improving on what the industry has achieved. Regulations and legislation governing the daily operations of companies across the supply chain have been introduced, rewritten, or removed. The only true constant in the last ten years has been constant change.

Factors like these, present throughout virtually all fields of business, sweep up its players in what is happening as they move towards the future. Small, daily changes have large implications. Each one has the ability to drastically shape the trajectory of a project. And, understandably, they often pass by in a blur for those managing them and may be forgotten about when discussing the outcomes even a year later.

Even though it’s difficult to prioritize with so many intricacies present, it is essential to remember the basics when distilling and developing your brand’s overall message.  

Back to our natural gas example. Consider: Why is the production of oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids necessary for our standard of living? What products do we use daily that would not be possible without hydrocarbons? How does the economic impact from the industry truly ripple out into the community through subcontractors, restaurants, insurance companies, schools, and nonprofit organizations?

Communication from companies and related associations within the respective industries should always be prepared to come back to these ideas whenever the audience calls for it. And a solid case can be made that conversations, fact sheets, websites and other ways of communicating these basics are constantly in need simply due to turnover rate in both the audience and the communicator.

For example, a total of 28 new legislators were sworn in for the 2017-2108 legislative cycle in Pennsylvania and an additional three were sworn in during special elections. That is a total of 31 new elected officials in just one year who are now determining issues that directly impact this industry and its operations through taxation, regulation, and legislation.

Of course, turnover affects more than just legislators. Political changes often come with changes within regulatory departments at a state level. Turnover rates of reporters are notoriously high as individuals often jump from beat to beat and to other media markets as they climb their career ladders.

One of the most overlooked opportunities to really highlight the fundamentals is with new employees within the industry and those who may not yet be exposed to this information on a daily basis. Understanding the core concepts should start at home with our own employees who can then speak intelligently and passionately as to why their jobs matter.

Beyond educating new employees, maintaining ongoing communication and a constant iteration of the basics within a work sphere, it is also crucial for the professional development of existing employees. When everyone is on the same page, all concepts come together to create one cohesive brand and, subsequently, on-tone messaging. 

For those who have worked in a specialized field for a long time, knowledge of its background and defining characteristics becomes second nature. It doesn’t get lifted up the way in which it deserves, making it fall flat from a communications standpoint. “Experts” can so easily get caught up in advancing a message forward, that we forget there are new players who don’t necessarily know where a message started, and are therefore missing the whole story.

This is particularly important when it comes to amplifying a message for mass appeal to an audience. Building a message and sharing it appropriately in terms of form and place allows a company to highlight its progression and show what’s special about it that has enabled it to rise to where it is within an industry.

Even in high-level messaging, referencing the basics creates a check-list for success. Language should always be crafted to be easily understood by a wide variety of audiences. Industry jargon and buzzwords can often obscure the point. Without clarity of message, the requisite outreach and distribution will lack impact.

Specialized industries are vast, complicated, and often technical– especially to those who have no previous experience. And even experience within the field itself is often limited to certain aspects of it, without equal knowledge across the supply chain or various departments within the same company.

By remembering to revisit the fundamentals regularly, those of us working with the industry have the ability to guide and greatly advance the understanding of the importance of what they do. Afterall, if we don’t, who will?