Jules Peck

Expert Adviser; Writer; Founding Member of Jericho Chambers

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Polemic: Tweet-to-who?

18th October, 2013 in Polemic

You’d have had to be asleep for the last two days to have missed that BG has got itself into a bit of a mess over its use of Twitter. The attacks and the ridicule will no doubt continue. But what lessons can we learn from this from Progressive Communications?  Unlike standard PR and communications, Progressive Communications is about “what you do not what you say”. In other words Progressive Communications its about actions not words.

With public trust in our major corporations and institutions having collapsed, empowerment of individuals is seeing influence shifting from state to citizen; employer to employee; corporation to consumer. Activism is everywhere, even among institutional shareholders. As a result, trust is complex and fragile. Society is atomised. Power is asymmetrical. Authority is now a rented space. The Big Six energy companies, along with the banks, sit on the front line in these tectonic shifts. So they, above all, need to act and think smart before they communicate.

In this new reality, you don’t need a loud-hailer and media soundbites. And nor should you leap to social media like Twitter if you haven’t got your actions in line with society’s expectations. You need to know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

So how might BG have acted differently? The Progressive Communication lesson is think, before you act, before you speak. Have BG really thought through their rationale for price hikes sufficiently? Are their facts really correct? They may well be. But that’s not the message that’s getting through. BG’s facts seem to differ from the views of others in their sector like SSE, who attribute a far smaller percentage of their price rise to environmental and social responsibilities. They seem to differ from the Prime Minister’s and from Ed Davey’s and his civil servants’ views. And they seem to differ from the latest research by think tank IPPR.

BG have walked, eyes seemingly closed, into an ongoing storm around energy prices and the future direction of UK energy markets. Indeed, many will say that these recent price hikes somewhat vindicate what Ed Miliband said recently about freezing energy prices.

So can we trust the Big Six? Are these price-hikes a great deal for the city but a rotten one for consumers? Clearly the public don’t trust the energy companies. Nor does Parliament. Nor do consumer groups like National Energy Action.

So whatever the facts are, the energy companies need to work far harder and smarter at their thinking and their actions before they leap to communicate. Maybe there should have been a bit more communication within BG before they leapt to Twitter?

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Copyright 2014 Jules Peck. Jericho Chambers