By Jenica Foster
It’s a fresh start to the year, which means creating a new reputation plan and gearing up for the launch of the 2019 Classroom Energy Diet Challenge in partnership with Canadian Geographic.
Alexandra Beaudoin is a stakeholder relations and reputation advisor for Shell Canada. Every January she maps out senior leader engagements, different stakeholder groups to reach out to, conferences to attend, sponsor, or speak at and other items to present to the external relations leadership team at Shell.
“As the energy industry changes in Canada, a lot of priorities that Shell may have had 10 years ago, five years ago, even three years ago are rapidly changing. An important part of my job is understanding how that business is changing and knowing what different stakeholders we can bring along on that journey,” Beaudoin says.
The external relations and reputation group at Shell is responsible for maintaining relationships with key external stakeholders such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society groups, academics, and advocates for industry. As well as create and assist in executing Shell Canada’s reputation plan across the country.
“Where I think stakeholder relations are really important is to test out our own thinking and to challenge that thinking,” Beaudoin says.
For instance, testing an announcement on different stakeholders to understand their impression, or engaging groups with differing opinions. Hearing their perspectives and understanding where they can agree or differ with an aim to close the gap is one of the ways Beaudoin says her job is important.
However, the most fruitful relationships are often through third party advocates. “As communicators, you want to be able to find advocates to help tell your stories rather than you always telling your own story,” Beaudoin says.
One of the challenging yet valuable aspects of working in external relations is exposure to many different points of view. Beaudoin says that what comes with this is her responsibility to keep up with the conversation. She says she needs to know enough about a variety of different topics to be a valuable member of the discussion. A lot of this learning comes on the job and sitting in meetings with experts.
Beaudoin says, “It’s no small task some days. You can go from one meeting talking climate policy to the next day talking project specifics at one of our sites. You need to be able to hold your own in those conversations.”
For those struggling to rise to the challenge, Beaudoin offers two pieces of advice:
- Be versatile: expose yourself to as many different facets of the business and stray away from silos. Becoming a generalist will likely open more opportunities for career development.
- Be confident: stand up for what you know. Demonstrate business value to senior leaders, not simply in monetary terms, but across the spectrum.
Every day for Beaudoin is different and her diverse role provides for a larger purpose as well. She says, “Being exposed to the important matters happening in our country challenges me to not only be more informed as a citizen, but as a communications professional as well.”