As mentioned in previous blogs, you must always live your message. You must also always take advantage of a situation to avoid placing your organization in a position of ridicule.
This is an example where a company could have gone further in sending its messages, and a CEO could have avoided creating the problem in the first place.
According to Rebecca Leber (ClimateProgress), “As ExxonMobil’s CEO, it’s Rex Tillerson’s job to promote the hydraulic fracturing enabling the recent oil and gas boom, and fight regulatory oversight. The oil company is the biggest natural gas producer in the U.S., relying on the controversial drilling technology to extract it. The exception is when Tillerson’s $5 million property value might be harmed. Tillerson has joined a lawsuit that cites fracking’s consequences in order to block the construction of a 160-foot water tower next to his and his wife’s Texas home.”
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas inside.
The Wall Street Journal reports the tower would supply water to a nearby fracking site, and the plaintiffs argue the project would cause too much noise and traffic from hauling the water from the tower to the drilling site. Exxon, which pays Tillerson a total $40.3 million, is reportedly staying out of the legal tangle. A spokesperson told the WSJ it “has no involvement in the legal matter.”
What makes this ironic to some is that Tillerson has been among the most-vocal critics of the anti-fracking lobby in the United States and its calls for anti-fracking regulations. “This type of dysfunctional regulation is holding back the American economic recovery, growth, and global competitiveness,” he said in 2012.
However, despite the fact that the plaintiff is their president and chief spokesperson, the company is right to stay out of it, although I would advise they expand their messages somewhat in order to better position themselves. Their principle message should be:
- “The issue in this case isn’t fracking, but rather the effects that an eyesore, namely a water tower, as well as increased noise and traffic, will have on property values in Mr. Tillerson’s neighborhood’.
In addition to this key fact, the company should also communicate the following:
- Mr. Tillerson continues to speak for the company as its Chief Executive Officer to ensure that dysfunctional regulation doesn’t hamper the economic recovery, growth, energy independence, and competitiveness of the United States.
- However, this remains a private legal matter, and we will not be commenting any further.
There is one more message the company’s Board should deliver personally to Tillerson. He earns over $40 million per year to defend the company’s interests, not to place it in a position of ridicule that could affect current and future operations. That message should be “suck it up” and drop out of the suit. At $40 million per year he can well afford a little noise and a small hit to his property value to avoid embarrassing the company he heads.
This too is effective communications!
Eduardo del Buey
Crosshairs Communications Ltd.