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Are energy companies risking too much by not taking a public stand on Brexit concerns?

Written by Kira Scharwey, Account Director in Madano’s Energy Practice

Sector influencers, trade bodies, parliamentary committees and even CEOs have all been very vocal about the significant risks Brexit poses to UK industry. But Madano’s recent research with Brussels-based consultancy BOLDT – the first ever social media study of industry attitudes to Brexit – found that companies themselves are being relatively quiet.

Our research aimed to understand the differences between the main industry sectors in their attitudes towards Brexit, which are most communicative about it and why.

How the energy sector stacks up

Out of 78 top UK and European companies in the energy sector in the study sample, only ten posted a total of 32 posts about Brexit on Twitter in 2017. This was low compared to the proportion of companies posting about Brexit in other sectors.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, as there is a large degree of regulatory divergence between member states, the study found that a significant focus of concern for energy trade bodies has been on the future regulatory regime, though this is somewhat alleviated by possible market opportunities.

There is less degree of conformity between what UK and European energy companies have been saying than other sectors analysed in the study. Energy companies in the UK are speaking publicly about business opportunities, while European companies are focused on regulation, Brexit preparation and industry robustness.

There’s a crack in everything

Assuming that the majority of these companies have still been communicating privately with government and stakeholders about their concerns, why haven’t they also been speaking publicly to reinforce their messages? Industries should be speaking with a single, consistent voice to a broader range of audiences to help their concerns be heard and addressed by decision-makers.

The public is an important audience in the Brexit negotiations debate. I’m not suggesting that companies should use social media to complain – they should use constructive, positive messaging around the industry’s needs to make their point. Negative messaging failed the Remain campaign – industries have to deliver more distinct and emotive messages to cut through a congested media space that’s focused on other high profile issues.

Why the silence?

Potentially companies are scared of the risks around communicating about Brexit – but there are plenty of risks around not communicating about it to customers and stakeholders.

Brexit will ultimately affect the public in the form of energy costs for consumers and businesses, environmental policy and climate targets, air quality, efficiency standards, energy security and the economy (our study found that UK companies are more concerned about a potential downturn in their sector than European companies, 19.2% compared with 16.5%).

Given the fraught political landscape, coordinated communication from industry needs to happen quickly to protect their interests.

Madano is a strategic communications consultancy with sector specialisms in energy, technology, transport, healthcare, and investment, development and regeneration.

Madano and BOLDT have recently launched a Brexit partnership group to support companies as they try to navigate the related communications issues.

To view the full study: http://madano.com/assets/news/...