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June 30, 2011
Fracking Flubs PR
Why wouldn't an extraction industry recognize it's exploiting a public resource and be PR-responsible from the start? That's a good question to ask the natural gas industry as it struggles to gain and hold public support. In Pennsylvania, for example, enlightened PR should have accompanied the arrival of the first drilling rig — not a campaign to avoid an extraction tax that could be used to lessen drilling impacts. Oh, as we've asked in other PR-needy situations, won't they ever learn?

CNN discusses the clumsiness of an industry that should know much better in a report on "The fracking public relations mess." "Failure to disclose what's in the fracking chemicals, opposition to a tax that could ease the impact on communities, the endorsement of a patchwork of sometimes inadequate regulations and a string of accidents are turning public opinion against the industry," CNN advises. No surprise there.

What did they expect of the public? Not to be curious over how natural gas is obtained from shale rock thousands of feet below the surface? To welcome truck traffic? To wonder what's in the chemicals used for splitting channels in the rock? To ask if the process is safe and will protect groundwater? Come on, guys. 

Putting up billboards noting that natural gas is a valuable resource doesn't cut it. That's not PR. Responsible actions and enlightened relationships are. Those are learnings from PR 101.

The Petroleum Economist says frackers are tackling their PR problems. Fine. But should it have been a surprise they would arise?

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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