When five oil sands companies came together with a vision to accelerate environmental, social and economic performance in the oil sands region, all they really knew about their communications style was that it had to be different than what had been tried before by various industry associations. The group understood this new organization was a test pilot to determine if these companies could collaboratively tackle mutual challenges facing oil sands developers. Based on a hand-shake and signature between senior leaders, the organization pledged to be responsive to stakeholders and encourage solution-oriented dialogue and to report out transparently on their performance.
To differentiate this group’s communication, Communica felt that this new collaboration would actually have to behave and ‘be’ different than other associations. An open-minded and truly collaborative approach to building something new was required. We started by facilitating a workshop between communicators of the five companies and industry critics and allies, from ENGOs to innovators and media personnel, to discuss what a better approach might look like. We facilitated annual two-day workshops after that to allow company communicators to focus on the new organization, how to strategically and tactically address its communications needs as it grew, while challenging them to push boundaries to stay different and fresh. These sessions formed the basis of communications plans for the year.
Over a four-year span, Communica’s communication team provided a full suite of services to COSIA, as full-time support for its communications department. Communica helped the organization create its own identity, working through an exercise to arrive at rules of common use of titles, logos and names etc. We provided secretariat support to a Chair and Communications Committee made up of senior communicators from each of the companies. We developed practical procedures for everything from vetting processes, RFP requests, tracking speaking requests and responses, and media response protocols. We developed a website that focused on stories about the organization’s initiatives, maintained and updated web content, developed video and other collateral for the association and individual member companies to use. After the first three years of building and growing, Communica wrote a full narrative report on the performance of the organization, following up with a second annual online narrative edition.
- COSIA has proven that industry could collaborate and morphed into one of the world’s largest, unique collaboration hubs focused on innovation in environmental performance in the oil sands.
- Many of the communication processes created for this initiative have been adopted as mainstream in collaborative efforts and joint industry projects across industry.
- Most projects launched under the initiative continue to this day, improving and accelerating environmental performance across the oil sands region.