Petro-Canada, Pump Talk and Corporate Blogging in Canada

posted by Brendan Hodgson

Last Friday, fellow Canadian blogger Kate Trgovac posted on Petro-Canada’s latest foray into the social media space with “Pump Talk“, a corporate blog dedicated to issues around gas pricing and fuel efficiency. (Disclosure: Petro-Canada is an H&K Canada client on this and other initiatives… meaning, I may sound a tad biased, though I’ll do my best to curb it).

I won’t re-hash what Kate so eloquently stated in her post, other than to reinforce her points about the importance of acknowledging the people behind the blog (each of whom I’ve met and – in Jon and Michael’s case – have worked with previously), and of not underestimating the challenges associated with making an initiative such as this a reality, particularly within the context of a large, publicly-traded company. And that speaks not only to the passion of Jon and his team to champion this approach, but also to the willingness of Petro-Canada’s senior executive team who elected to step beyond their traditional comfort zone and try something different. As it stands, and with the exception of Chevron’s “Will you join us” campaign, I’ve not yet seen a similar exercise here in Canada or elsewhere within the oil and gas space (though happy to be shown otherwise).

In my view, part of what makes this exercise truly fascinating is its commitment, compared to most other corporate blogs, to provide content in both of Canada’s official languages. As it did with its original Pump Talk video series (launched on its website and on Youtube in 2006), Petro-Canada has essentially created two blogs – Pump Talk and Pleins-gaz. For the most part, content will be shared across both. As always, however, the challenge is most acute as it relates to linking to third-party content. As their language policy states: “We will search for links to third-party content in both official languages, however, in cases where materials are only available in one language, we will err on the side of providing quality information to users of the blog and provide a link.”  Not the most perfect solution, perhaps, but the most practical by far.

Equally interesting, and contrary to its blog posts, Petro-Canada has elected not to translate comments to the site in order to “respect the original intent of comments made on the blogs”. Some might wonder how such a decision might impact the “flow” of the conversation. Likewise, it’ll be interesting to see if such a policy also impacts the “immediacy” of the blog – given the time required to translate posts – particularly during times when the issue is front-and-center in the mainstream media (usually when gas prices and emotions are both spiking).

Petro-Canada’s publication of an employee comment policy as it relates to the blog is also a fascinating (yet, I would suggest, essential) exercise, one that underscores the increasing “voice” of the employee – no matter who they are or what they’re role – in the social media space, and the need for organizations to set clear expectations as it relates to such participation.

What do you think? Are Petro-Canada’s policies too hot, too cold, or just right? Have they missed anything, or is it simply too early to tell?

As with other corporate blogs, the proof will, in large part, be driven by Petro-Canada’s ability to create and sustain a meaningful dialog around these topics, and in their ability to respond appropriately to those who will undoubtedly question the motives behind such an exercise.

In the meantime, congratulations to Kate and her team, and to Jon, Sneh, Mike and Corinn for stick-handling this truly innovative initiative. And while getting it to where it is today may have seemed like hard work, I’m thinking there’ll be even more interesting days ahead. 

1 Comment


Cristina Dumitru


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