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An earlier blog focused on the share of voice and share of media type for Exxon and BP. The research showed that BP had a very small share of the voice compared to Exxon (see: Social Media in Oil and Gas: A Snap Shot). BP’s share of 29.4% paled in comparison to Exxon’s 70.6%. We observed that spikes in topics surrounding significant environmental or economic events at both companies. Exxon dominated the chatter after announcing their 2009 Q4 earnings compared to the same announcement by BP.
In my follow up blog, How Social Media Exasperated BP’s Image After the Gulf Spill, we observed significant changes in the share of voice. The share shifted to 66.4% for BP. We also noticed a major shift from blogs to micro media. The two-week content review showed that the chatter about the spill topped out at more than double the chatter after Exxon’s earnings announcement.
The question is.... can these findings be applied to the oil sands? The short answer is YES. The CWF study compares media coverage of the oil sands for March 2010.
We noticed that the negative environmental stories transmitted over web media are 5 times that of positive stories in the same medium and more than 2 times that in Canadian media. This study validates our earlier findings that negative environmental stories travel much more quickly and with more vigor over web media than other media sources in either Canada or internationally.
Given the overall volume of negative stories about the oil sands, I’m not surprised that most of them are focused in Alberta. I am surprised about the number of negative oil sands coverage in BC. A large part of the negative discussion in BC can be attributed to opposition of the Northern Gateway pipeline; A pipeline proposed by Enbridge to transport $525,000 bpd of bitumen from Edmonton to Kitimat for transport to refineries in Asia .
The debate about producing the oil sands even rages around the transportation of the unconventional oil. I expect that the opposition has only grown since the tragic spill in the Gulf.
CWF also reviews economic stories. We observe that the stories across mediums are overwhelmingly positive. Thinking about level of control, it makes sense that economic stories will swell on the positive side because sources include company reports and press releases.
How does this compare to the environmental stories? The difference remains in the level of control. Citizen journalism, circulated almost exclusively through web media, is out of the control of the oil sands companies while financial data remains 100% in control.
I propose that it does not have to be that way. Producers who are the target of such negative environmental stories do not have to sit idly by while citizen journalists, who may or may not be fully informed, broadcast their opinion. Web media is open source. The oil and gas industry has the means to speak up in its own defence. Crisis communications is not sufficient. Proactive communication is required. Image and trust is built up over time. Image and trust require constant and consistent communication.
 Canada West Foundation. (2010). Oil sands media monitoring report. Retrieved from