The Southern California Gas Company

Mobilizing internal advocates to advance corporate reputation and public policy

In March 2014, the new CEO of the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) faced a daunting task. California’s regulators and policy makers were advocating for the elimination of all fossil fuels — including natural gas — from the state’s energy mix. Not only did this present significant economic challenges to California businesses and consumers, but it would also prevent the use of natural gas technologies, which could in fact accelerate the path to the state’s climate change goals.

Expertise

Challenge

Challenge

Challenge

The very existence of SoCalGas hung in the balance. As the nation’s largest natural gas utility, it was clear that the company needed to act and advocate on behalf of its 21 million customers. SoCalGas needed to offer an alternative path, one in which natural gas was a viable and attractive part of the solution to meet the state’s aggressive environmental goals.

Approach

Approach

Approach

  • Researched external issues and stakeholder perspectives that influence SoCalGas’ license to operate
  • Integrated existing business, brand, legislative and environmental strategies into an overarching positioning strategy for the company
  • Trained and aligned 300 leaders and public-facing employees as “natural gas ambassadors” to deliver the message using their authentic voice
  • Identified a “circles of influence” and developed targeted relationship-building plans for the top 25 external influencers
  • Increased executive visibility in thought leadership, business and environmental forums and publicized speech topics through op-eds

Results

Results

Results

After 12 months, the conversation began to shift in California.

  • Contrary to prior statements that natural gas had no role in California’s future, California’s Air and Resources Board (CARB) publicly stated that they remain “technology neutral” and open to renewable natural gas and power-to-gas technologies as part of the state’s long-term energy strategy
  • State regulatory agencies publicly acknowledged SoCalGas’ innovation and leadership among other utilities
  • The positioning work led to a corporate reorganization and increased investment — both internal and external funding — in natural gas technology demonstration projects and market-building activities
  • Increased positive media coverage through op-ed placement
  • The response from employees was overwhelmingly positive:
    • 91 percent feel better-equipped to tell SoCalGas’ story
    • 84 percent feel more confident to handle tough questions
    • 90 percent feel SoCalGas is headed in the right direction with this positioning effort
  • Increased positive media coverage through op-ed placement
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