Nearly everyday now when you open the paper or turn on the local news we are faced with another negative story out of the oil patch here in North Dakota. Meth labs, murders, homelessness, traffic, environmental issues and workers being killed at an alarming rate are becoming the norm while the positive aspects are becoming a mere footnote. While there is no doubt that the media will gravitate towards these types of stories for the sensational aspect alone, it is quite clear that the community and the oil industry in general are doing a poor job of Public Relations and a poor job of being the good corporate citizens that we as North Dakotans had hoped and expected.
Recently, in fact, we were meeting with some Public Relations officials with a significant energy company and during the course of the conversation they actually told us that they like to take on special projects and good will efforts in the communities they work, but they like to do it “under the radar” without a lot of fanfare. Their reason was that no matter what they do someone would have something negative to say, so it was better not to open the door for criticism. To me this type of thinking seems to lack courage and conviction and any belief that what you’re doing does have any real benefit to the people of the state.
Taking a timid, let’s get in and get out, mentality will never allow people to believe or support what you’re doing. Energy companies that are afraid to show their soft under belly, that don’t humanize themselves to the public, that continue to take without telling people what they are giving back, will leave a legacy of negative attitudes in their wake.
I personally worry about the adverse impact that the oil boom in North Dakota will leave behind for generations to come. But, I may worry a little less if I knew that some of these gigantic corporations were also concerned and were doing all they can to enhance and improve our quality of life. The energy industry needs to step up to the plate. They need to tell their story. They need to help us balance all the bad with some good.
LaRoy Kingsley is the president of KK BOLD. He was rockin’ the Bakken way before they ever started making bumper stickers about it.