Introduction banner of Natalie Coupar from OEUK

Hampton recently caught up with Natalie Coupar, Communications and Marketing Director at OEUK, who shared valuable insight and learnings surrounding the opportunities and challenges we face in the journey towards a new energy future and the role that marcomms plays in helping to make a difference.

What does OEUK do?

Offshore Energies UK is the leading trade body for the UK’s integrating offshore energies industry. We represent over 400 organisations leading the UK in offshore oil, gas, carbon capture and storage, hydrogen and wind. From operators to the supply chain and across the lifecycle from production to decommissioning, these world-class companies safely provide cleaner fuel, power and products to millions across the UK and beyond. We work with our members and stakeholders to support governments in ensuring secure, reliable and cleaner supplies of energy which help the country get to net zero.

What is your role?

I’m the Communications and Marketing Director. I lead the team responsible for protecting and promoting OEUK and industry reputation, which we do through content and campaigns which connect with and inspire our audiences.

From the design and promotion of our flagship reports to engaging with national media on the key issues facing the offshore energy industry, the team works with our members to champion the sector and raise awareness of the value it adds to the UK economy.

What’s a brand/marketing priority for you right now?

Communicating purpose with purpose. In recent years we’ve seen a wider shift in the business landscape towards the measurement of impact.

People want to know if companies align with their values, and more importantly, they want to see facts and examples of how organisations are delivering the change that they say they support within corporate mission statements.

I’m lucky to have the job of representing an industry which understands and is acting on its purpose: helping the UK reach net zero by investing in reliable, cleaner and home-produced energy. We have at least 200,000 examples in our diverse and highly skilled people. They work for offshore energy companies up and down the UK, and the wider sectors that support work to produce energy in UK waters. Every day our people play a big role in driving societal, environmental and economic progress through delivering a carefully managed transition towards net zero by 2050.

It's no longer enough for brands to talk about what their product offers the market; investors, governments and consumers increasingly want to hear about how an organisation’s purpose aligns with wider societal ambitions and values, alongside the tangible steps we’re taking to get there. If you’ve got the right metrics, it’s a great place to be as a communications professional. For example, we don’t just talk about our commitment to producing cleaner energies or making the UK oil and gas basin one of the cleanest in the world, we talk about the recent Scotwind licensing round and the many changing oil and gas companies driving this, or how this industry will invest some £200bn in UK energy over the next decade alone.

This is reflected in our own brand journey, having earlier this year repositioned ourselves as Offshore Energies UK. The decision to evolve was taken to better represent our members who were already expanding into CCUS, wind and hydrogen.

Marketing and communication efforts can help businesses establish a strong, impactful brand. But what strategies or tactics do you think are key?

Our starting point for everything is to make sure that we live our brand consistently across everything we do and have a shared idea of what the end goal is, and second, stress test those outputs with solid data. From there, we can be reasonably confident that we’re deploying strategies and tactics which will help achieve that outcome.

When I think of the progress that’s been made across communications and marketing even in the last 10 years, we are living in a remarkable age of data. There’s no excuse to rely on anecdotes to shape a campaign when polls, focus groups, historical owned channel data and ongoing evaluation can be done for relatively low cost and can guarantee impact in the longer term.

The other key tactic for me in establishing a strong brand is the power of a good picture. Companies in the energy industry are among the luckiest of the lot when it comes to great pictures which can tell a powerful story of who they are and what they do. When running a PR campaign or even managing a reputational issue, sometimes the best starting point is thinking about what picture do I want to see run on the news? Understanding that visual connect with customers and stakeholders can be a very powerful psychological tool.

What do you see as the main challenges the energy sector might face in the future?

As an industry, we know we need to continue to show through our actions that we are committed to change and that we must be supported to play – and continue to play - that positive role in developing the UK’s low-carbon energy future. We need to explain with facts and evidence why oil and gas will still be part of that in some ways, and continue to have challenging conversations about the fact we won’t always get it right, but equally we can’t afford as a society to hide away from how difficult it will be to deliver a transition that is fair for everyone. The energy price crisis exacerbated by Putin’s war in Ukraine and triggered by global underinvestment in resources continues to take a huge toll on people across the country.

It's why OEUK continues to make the case for prioritising homegrown power and fuel, strengthening our long-term energy independence, turbocharging the economy and creating jobs and skills we need to accelerate cleaner energies. We know we need to bring everyone on this journey, whether that’s colleagues working in the industry, think tanks, academics, politicians, students or consumers.

We have to communicate the importance of companies in investing in UK offshore energy to keep homes warm, schools lit and hospitals powered. But, we must also show that these are the same companies needed to drive increasingly cleaner energies if the UK is to secure a homegrown transition to net zero.

What role can marketing play in helping to overcome these obstacles?

Marketing and communications is all about how we tell our story to our audiences in a way that promotes and protects reputation, identifies and satisfies customer need, and shows how we fit in to wider society in a way that has a positive and meaningful impact. All of this needs to be built on solid policy – without this, we can only help manage obstacles. It’s the coming together of marcomms, strategy, operations and policy which helps deliver true change.

What do you see as the main opportunities the energy sector might face in the future?

There’s never been a more exciting time to be part of this industry, but carefully managing the nation’s energy needs comes with significant challenges. These challenges require joined-up thinking across industry and with governments and stakeholders if we are going to continue to deliver secure energy, whilst transitioning to net zero.

I’m optimistic about the pace and volume of transformation across the sector but to maintain this, we need diverse people and skills to make sure we continue to evolve, adapt and grow. Whether it’s diversity of thought, of background or experience, challenging the norm and radical thinking will be crucial for the industry if we hope to navigate the energy transition, ensure energy security at home, and unlock the real potential of the industry.

What action needs to be taken now to prepare for and make the most of the opportunities ahead? (Will OEUK need to adapt, change or invest?)

The horrifically over-quoted but entirely sensible Heraclitus made a good point when he said “change is the only constant in life”. In an age of 24-hour news and what seems to be a never-ending torrent of change, we are always looking to try and grapple with what the future could look like, and where there could be opportunities for industry to underline its purpose.

From expanding our membership offering to include carbon capture and storage, hydrogen and wind (as well as oil and gas), to helping members better understand the political and social landscape, we need to continue to be prepared to challenge the status quo and become comfortable with the uncomfortable – the known and unknowns.

As we move into the future, we know that in the battle for the hearts and minds of the public, we’re unlikely to win over Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion, or to have a Christmas card from Greta Thunberg. This industry does have a great story to tell and must speak to the millions of pragmatic people across the UK, who want to see companies here drive and invest in our journey to net zero in a way that supports jobs, the economy and security of supply.

To find out more visit the OEUK website today.

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