The University of Tulsa’s Master of Energy Business program partnered with Energy Advocates, an industry-focused nonprofit organization based in Tulsa, Okla., and Washington, DC, to host a mini-conference and roundtable discussion on Aug. 11 in Tulsa in conjunction with the annual Residency Seminar for new students. The mission of Energy Advocates is to educate the American public about its vital energy industry and to present energy policy issues in a balanced and unbiased manner. Over the years, Energy Advocates has hosted a number of events at which corporate representatives, legislators, and individuals from a number of other organizations have come together to share ideas and philosophies, offer input and solutions, and learn from industry colleagues, experts, and thought leaders.
TU MEB students, state officials and representatives from Oklahoma’s many energy sectors attended the afternoon session to discuss “Energy Messages & the Media.” Participants explored how the state’s oil and gas organizations can improve communication and cooperation with local and national media to tell the industry’s story. Mark Stansberry, CEO of the energy investment firm The GTD Group in Edmond, Okla., served as moderator. Featured guests included Forrest Cameron of GTR Newspapers, Charlie Biggs of The Tulsa Beacon and Casey Smith of the Tulsa World, and Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment Michael Teague.
Secretary Teague said the energy industry most often shies away from engaging with the media, and when officials do speak the message is combative and too technical for the public to understand. “There’s this fear of the unknown,” Teague said. “We need to ask ourselves who’s telling the story and have transparency to let the public see what it’s all about.”
Officials agreed the energy industry and the media need to develop stronger relationships and partner with each other to present balanced reporting. TU MEB students learned that collaboration can be challenging when different energy sectors, such as wind, coal, natural gas and oil, strive to promote their own individual agendas instead of a unified energy mission.
Participants also discussed utilizing social media to reach millennials who often view oil and gas as a dirty industry that harms the environment. “The advantage of doing these roundtables is always engagement of students, especially those in the MEB program at TU,” Teague said. “These students are former or current members of the industry or will be in the future, and I appreciate their perspective because it’s broader than just oil and gas.”