New Kid On The Block – Alberta Is Energy

Alberta Is Energy logo, courtesy of AlbertaIsEnergy.ca

property of AlbertaIsEnergy.ca

You know what? This post was originally going to break down the new Alberta is Energy website… I was going to go through the site and comment on all the sections, what this particular area had to offer, what this one says… But I took a look at all of my notes and stopped. I stopped because I was, on the whole, disappointed.

Instead, I have provided a screencast of the site which you can find at the bottom of this post.

It’s My Own Fault

But perhaps I have no one to blame but myself. Maybe I am not the audience Alberta is Energy is trying to reach… when I took all of 10.3 seconds to quickly see the site on the 6th, I saw three things:

  1. A flashy site with lots of smiling people
  2. A green “Energy” within the site logo
  3. Social media buttons (Facebook and Twitter etc.)

In my mind I had built up my vision of what this site would (or should) be. And, when I started digging around, I found I was wrong.

What It Is

Alberta Is Energy web site

screen shot

AlbertaIsEnergy.ca is a brand new online resource (launched on April 6th, 2010) brought to us by a collection of energy industry partners and does not appear to be directly supported by the Alberta government.

It seems to be a place for people to come and see how amazing energy in Alberta is. To see how the economy in Alberta is reliant on energy, to see how many people make their living through energy and to see how many spinoff industries are supported by energy.

It is also set up to be a forum where we Albertans (and presumably others) can discuss how much we love our province and the impact that energy has on us.

I agree with all of the above.

What It Isn’t

It isn’t a response to our biggest critics. It doesn’t address responsible energy development. It doesn’t try to bring a balanced point of view on the oil sands, an industry that has been described as “the most destructive project on earth.” There’s an Action Centre, but I’m not sure what “action” I’m supposed to take… Based on the content of this site, am I supposed to take action against all those who think Alberta is *not* about energy? I don’t think there are many people out there who would argue.

(perhaps it shouldn’t be a response to our critics at all… there are other industry-driven attempts to put the record straight out there after all.)

It isn’t a platform for open dialogue. There is an attempt to embed social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, and there is a forum for you to see “what other Albertans have to say about their province and their sector. This is the place to discuss our past and present, and shape our future.” But I’m not sure how effective these attempts will be.

A Public Sphere – Sign Up, But Be Careful What You Say

Let’s look at the forum first, an area that I have a few questions about. The first question, why do I have to create an account to post – why can I not use my Twitter or Facebook account to sign in? Social media sites have bent over backwards with publicly available APIs to allow easy posting across the web.

Make it easy and people will be more likely to post. Who wants to remember another username and password? Another benefit for this is that whenever I post to AlbertaIsEnergy.ca under @MyOilSands, I automatically tweet about the post and potentially drive my followers to the site. That’s a good thing. (The service MusicHy.pe has embraced this method – just see how easy it is to sign in to their site.)

Another question I have revolves around the 551 words within the Terms and Conditions of the forum. I can fully understand why the lawyers made an argument for such an agreement, and I can also understand that industry execs are scared to do anything without their lawyers, but it does nothing to encourage open dialogue. Something like this will scare off many digital enthusiasts to other communities that rely on self-regulation for control. If the goal is to have frank discussions… well, it’s not going to happen here.

There’s a lot of language in the T&C that are scary enough, take a read if you’d like, but one that jumps out at me is this: “…otherwise in violation of any International or United States Federal law.” What about Canadian law? Don’t we rate at least a mention? (there’s probably a reason – like the forum software/service is actually based out of the States etc. and the T&C are taken from their service. But that’s just a shot in the dark.)

Social Media

Social Media Watercolours - courtesy of mfinleydesigns

courtesy of mfinleydesigns

There’s an attempt to embrace social media here, and I love it. I do.

I love the idea of industry engaging in two-way communications with the public. This is what we need. However, the site and its respective social media cousins are new and are missing content. I’m positive the folks behind the scenes will no doubt be making improvements to their Facebook and Twitter accounts (like adding a URL to their @AlbertaIsEnergy account). But, as mentioned before, they should completely integrate social media into the login/forum process for it to be effective.

There’s a YouTube account linked to the site, with one lonely video of a pumpjack. Alas, the expensive-looking “Alberta is Energy” video in the Video Centre is not on YouTube, so I can’t comment on or rate the video. I would love to be able to point out how many Fort Mac shots there were in the clip (Sawridge, OSDC, Shell on Franklin/Hardin etc.)… so I’m looking forward to accessing and interacting with more content in the future.

(Here’s nice little article from Fast Company regarding, “The Five P’s of Social Media–Where Do You Start?”, which gives a rundown on effectively using social media.)

It’s Not Easy Being (Orange &) Green

And what do I think of the colour scheme used on the site? Well, aside from thinking NDP, the use of green in the logo and throughout the site is an interesting choice. I love both colours, orange and green are great, and I can see why they chose them.

The sprinkles of green though… well, lot’s of organizations are jumping on using green in their advertising and public relations campaigns. Is it greenwashing? Not sure. Would I feel better if there was more information of responsible energy practices in Alberta? Yes. Perhaps they have such information (like water use and reclamation) waiting in the wings – the site has after all, only been active for less than a week.

So What Was I Expecting?

Dirty Oil - courtesy of ItzaFineDay

courtesy of ItzaFineDay

Let me make one thing clear: both industry and government have lost control of Alberta’s brand – particularly around the energy sector (read: tar sands). Opponents to the oil sands have done an effective job at getting their message across to the world. And their message? It’s simple and clear: oil sands = dirty oil.

As production and income levels from the oil sands continue to rise, so too does the reliance of Alberta’s economy on “unconventional oil”. A target on the oil sands is a target on Alberta.

This is the message we need to counter. And this is what I am still looking for.

Alberta Is Energy Screencast

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4 responses to “New Kid On The Block – Alberta Is Energy

  1. Thanks for such a considerate and concise post about the new program ‘Alberta is Energy’. You made several great points that I have not considered before.

    I am glad you brought up Greenwashing as one point and would like to comment on that. Greenwashing is a growing concern as more and more organizations recognize the opportunity … nay nay… the requirements to operate and produce responsibly. Consumers are becoming more educated and informed about these issues and I speculate that the greenwashers out there will do major damage to their brand and credibility. The design of my organization’s brand is even a bit of a mockery of willing AND unintentional greenwashers.

    Like you, I enjoy and appreciate the quality of the design behind the choice of color palette. I do not feel that this is greenwashing. Because, in part, I get the impression that the consortium is not trying to provide environmental arguments favoring the industry.

    I feel that the general message is to provide background information to Joe Public so that he/she can develop an informed position. As you said it, the ENGO’s have done a great job getting their message out while the resource industry, in AB and North America abroad, have been operating behind an iron curtain of information.

    Thanks again for providing so much info. for a great discussion. I’d like to hear more about yours, and others’ thoughts on the matter.

  2. Hi MyOilSands

    Appreciate the review and the screencast too. Very cool. You‘ve made some great observations. Like all things web, nothing should stay the same, so we are building as we go. Obviously our events page needs some dates and those are coming soon.

    We have just made a few changes to our twitter and YouTube pages, and uploaded the Alberta is Energy video… More videos to come.

    If I had to sum up the message of Alberta is Energy, I’d say it’s the relationship of Albertans to the province’s oil and gas sector. I’ve heard some criticism that this is pointless because “everybody already knows” or “it’s been done,” but public research indicates that it just ain’t so. Consider the questions: How many Albertans are directly or indirectly employed in oil and gas? What per cent is energy of Alberta’s GDP? Canada’s? Are oil sands our major revenue-generating resource? Which region of Alberta produces the most natural gas? Polls show that many Albertans can’t answer the most basic questions.

    You’ve also hit on a key point. Alberta is Energy is not about the oil sands, it’s about people. For info on the oil sands, visit our other web page http://www.canadasoilsands.ca. For Alberta is Energy we’ve started out profiling a few Albertans, and we’re working on adding more. We’ll continue to publish these real-life stories, their roles in the Alberta economy, and how the oil and gas industry impacts them.

    I’d say one of the behind-the-scenes significant factors for Alberta is Energy is the collaboration of associations who are collectively promoting the importance of oil and gas in Alberta. That’s recognition that lots of folks genuinely care about this province. You’re right, government is not involved in this.

    Alberta is Energy is just one way our industry will reach out. We’re telling the stories of Albertans and building awareness of our industry for Albertans, Canadians and the globe.

    We’ve used this line in some of our materials: “Every Albertan, no matter their political ideology, can agree that a strong oil and gas industry creates revenue for the province, creates jobs throughout Alberta, and provides the building blocks for quality public programs and the growth of other businesses and sectors.” That’s a good summary of what Alberta is Energy is all about. If you are interested, you can read a pdf of CAPP President David Collyer’s speech announcing the program here: http://bit.ly/b4dTEq

    To your point about legalities and Social Media, yes we want a public discussion, but we owe it to the public to share fact-based information. I guess you could say the 551 word disclaimer (yup, part of the software) is a reminder to keep it real, please.

    Good point about lack of content on our social media sites. Care to add some please!? 😉 I agree with you (and industry is starting to as well). We have to be in the Social Web space.

    And, oohhh the colour debate… It’s never a black and white issue ;-P No matter what the choices, it never satisfies all!

    • Thank you for the feedback Tony, and thank you for quickly posting the Alberta Is Energy video to YouTube. Looking forward to seeing more media online.

      I’m thinking about adding my voice in regards to Pembina’s take on the site (http://bit.ly/c0BLh5)… however I was musing about the topic of “Alberta Is Energy is not about the oil sands, rather it’s about the people”.

      Specifically, I was thinking about how interesting it was that Simon Dyer (of Pembina) and I both addressed the new site in regards to oil sands development – even though it’s not specifically addressing the sands. It seems as though while Simon and I have differing opinions, we both obviously make a living from oil sands development, so we must have had our bitumen-tinted spectacles on when we browsed the site for the first time. But to be fair, as oil sands development increases, I can only see the attention increasing and overshadowing “conventional” oil and gas sources/issues.

      Thanks again for your comments, I appreciate it.