6 Communication Tips for Recruiting Millennials to Oil and Gas

By Barb Adams

In a recent editorial entitled Whither the Gold Watch?, a pipeline services company executive lamented the tendency of millennials — those 20- and 30-somethings expected to represent 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025  — to “job hop” rather than put in long, loyal careers with a single firm.

But the capricious nature of millennials is just one aspect of the perfect talent-management storm facing oil and gas companies. As the result of an aging workforce retiring in droves and fewer students preparing for energy industry careers, the mismatch between the number of job openings and the pool of candidates prepared to fill them is staggering. In fact, it’s estimated that there will be half a million openings in the oil and gas industry over the next five years.

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What’s a beleaguered hiring manager to do?

Many energy companies are pulling out all the stops — remunerative and otherwise — to keep those flighty millennials, the presumptive next generation of industry leaders, engaged and in place. And with talent poaching rampant, retention is easily a full-time effort.

But retention is just one part of the equation. The first step, of course, is recruiting millennials. And to do that successfully, you have to know how to communicate with them.

Understanding Millennials Can Help You Craft Content

Not since the cave paintings at Lascaux has a generation been so inclined to use representations to express ideas as millennials are. Emojis, emoticons, endless abbreviations — they’re all part of the lexicon of these digital natives.

Don’t be inclined to “go there,” as they say: Unless you want prospective employees to LOL (laugh out loud), there’s no place for “U will (heart) working here” in your recruitment efforts.



Instead, let’s consider what your mobile-friendly website, LinkedIn and Facebook ads, Tweets, YouTube videos, and other recruiting materials should include. (And yes, you should be using each of those avenues to promote your company to potential new hires.)

Although there’s no exact template to follow, taking a look at some of the considerable research into millennials’ preferences can help direct your content development. Consider these six guidelines.

1. When Oil and Gas Monitor studied the habits of more than 10,000 millennials, it discovered the group is not as motivated by money as previous generations. Instead, millennials prefer an environment where they can “develop, demonstrate their talents, and progress through the company.” In addition, millennials value collaboration and teamwork. Your recruiting efforts should describe how employees, working together, could have a positive impact on your organization.

2. Axero Solutions, a social software company, said because this generation was raised on social media and entertainment, millennials respond to stories, anecdotes, and individual narrative. That means testimonials by peers who are advancing in your company can be extremely powerful and influential.

3. As Rigzone has noted, the tech-heavy oil and gas industry is almost naturally appealing to this wired demographic. Early adopters of technology, millennials equate newer with better. But not only do they love new devices, millennials also seek “fresh ideas, innovative approaches, and original insights,” according to Axero Solutions. In addition to using technology such as social media and YouTube videos to reach millennials, it’s important to show them the technology they’ll work with in your organization, as well as the kind of innovation your company produces.

4. It’s all right to be playful, said Will Pearson, co-founder of Mental Floss magazine, speaking at the World Innovation Forum in New York City. Quoted in a report by Entrepreneur magazine, Pearson described millennials’ favorite media as a combination of goofy, earnest, and confident. You can tailor your messages with “quirk in an authentic voice,” he says. In other words, “whimsy is acceptable, but be genuine about it.” The serious-to-the-point-of-being-dour language that may have enticed Baby Boomers won’t cut it with millennials.

5. Pearson also said that millennials switch their attention between electronic devices up to 27 times an hour. Given that dizzying pace, is it even possible to catch their attention? According to Lindsey Pollak, the self-proclaimed “Millennial Workplace Expert,” the answer is, yes. She suggests that organizations present information in digestible bits through social media. Tweets, for example, take only seconds to consume, and retweeting builds your audience exponentially. Millennials also respond well to informational videos and infographics.



6. Millennials want to change the world. They also want to work in a company that supports that goal. In fact, in a Bentley University study, 84 percent of respondents said that “helping to make a positive difference in the world is more important than professional recognition.” Couple that with the results of a survey by researchers Millennial Branding and hiring site Beyond.com, indicating the main reason millennial workers will stay at a company is if there is a “good cultural fit,” and it’s clear. That means that recruiting materials should tout your company’s social and environmental activities and describe how they are interwoven with your business values and corporate culture.

With retention a continuing issue, some employers have pessimistically referred to the hiring of millennials a very expensive revolving door. But because they represent the future of the oil and gas industry, it’s essential to get the best candidates through that door. Upgrading your recruiting materials so they speak the language of the generation can help.

Stay in Focus: Remembering Your Audience and Message

When you’re in the middle of a copywriting job, there’s an age-old marketing maxim that can be hard to remember – and it can sometimes be hard to convey to clients: You can’t be all things to all people.

Good copy does two things: It speaks to a specific, targeted audience AND it has a specific, focused message. The two go hand in hand. If you try to talk to several target audiences at once, or if your message is too broad, you’ll end up with copy that’s the equivalent of lukewarm, watery coffee.

No one wants that.


How to Find Your Target Audience:

A target audience can still be fairly broad, but it needs to be identified. Sometimes it’s just a matter of asking your client. Sometimes, they might not know. A few ways to sort and identify target audiences is by:

1. Gender
2. Age
3. Profession
4. Interest/Hobby
5. Income

You may find that, more often than not, your target audience falls in between several of those categories. For instance, I would guess that video game companies traditionally target young men under 30 with time and cash to spare.

Another way to identify your target audience is to ask questions such as Who is buying your product or service? and Who do you want to pay attention to you?

When you don’t have a defined audience, you can’t have defined copy. You can’t, for instance, write a marketing piece that’s aimed at national advertisers, local businesses, customers, and teenagers. That’s because these group have no common links – they each have their own needs, their own perspective. You’d be better off creating marketing materials for each group, because trying to write a single piece directed to all of them is going to be a jumbled, generic disaster.


How to Choose a Specific Message:

Your message always comes AFTER you identify your target audience. That’s because you can’t start crafting a message until you know who you’re talking to, who’s going to be interested in this product or service, or why they need it.

Now, all copy needs to be persuasive, well-written, and focused on identifying differentiators and benefits. Once again, you can’t be all things to all people.

Your message should do two things:

1. It should identify a problem that your target market faces.
2. It should offer a solution to that problem.

Once you’ve identified both the problem and the solution, start crafting single sentence theses. This won’t necessarily be your company’s slogan or new campaign, but it will help keep your thoughts organized as you develop your marketing materials. And it will help you identify different angles and avenues for your marketing campaign.

For example, a new energy drink could take many different routes with an email advertising campaign. Here are some examples of marketing messages (not slogans) that the company could take:

DrinkX gives you the energy you need without the jitters you get from caffeine or the crash you get from sugary drinks.

Five great flavors means you won’t only get the energy you need from DrinkX – you’ll actually enjoy drinking it.

The first message focuses on the fact that DrinkX doesn’t contain caffeine or sugar. The second message is all about taste (literally). Either message may work, as long as it correctly addresses a problem that the target audience perceives concerning energy drinks (either, a problem with energy drinks causing jitters, or a problem with energy drinks tasting terrible).

Now, if the message you use is the wrong one, you may end up wasting a lot of cash. But, if you can’t decide between the messages, you’ll have the same problem: spending a lot of money going back and forth, trying to target different audiences.

Applying the Message:

Where do you go from there? Well, there are a couple of options. For small campaigns, keep things simple: try two targeted landing pages on your website. Draw traffic with pay-per-click ads and measure the results. Which one does better? That’s the correct message; stick with it.

If you’re launching a massive marketing campaign with print, radio, web, and TV ads, you have a few options. You can run complete campaigns in different regions and see which one does better (lots of cash required for this option). A more affordable route is to do some basic surveys on your own – via email or phone – to find out what your target audience really cares about.

In Review:

There’s a process to it all, a method to the copywriting madness. And it goes like this:
1. Identify your target audience
2. Identify your message
3. THEN start writing …


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Striking the Right Tone with Your Clients

When it comes to advertising copy, few things are as important – and as hard to pin down – as tone. Any client can tell you what kind of widget they sell and why their widget is better than their competitors’ widgets – but not all clients have a clear idea of what tone they’re looking for. And, as a copywriter, it’s your job to help them find out. Unless, of course, you really want to write five zillion drafts of that web page until you get the tone just right.

Deciding on tone isn’t as black-and-white as, say, figuring out whether your client prefers bullet points or paragraphs. And, tone is extremely subjective: Something that sounds fun and innovative to one client may seem dry and technical to another.

So, how do you know exactly what your client means when he says that he wants something “energetic, yet fiscally responsible” or “high-energy and professional”?

Read on for a few tips for pitch-perfect tone:

1. Make a list of adjectives. Ask your client for five adjectives that describe her business. For example, does she see her company as hip and cutting-edge? Or would she prefer a straightforward and businesslike approach? Getting a few good descriptive words down is always a good starting point.

2. Ask about your client’s favorite websites (or print ads or blogs). Ask your client for a list of websites he likes, and then go visit them. You should get a pretty clear idea of the tone he has in mind. If all of the websites are serious and technical, it’s probably a good indicator of the tone that will work for him.

3. Provide tone samples. Sometimes, showing is way more effective than telling, and tone samples are a quick and effective way to provide your client with options. Take one page of copy (something pretty basic – I usually like to start with the home page), and rewrite it two or three different ways. Comparing tones side-by-side makes it much easier for you (and your client) to decide which one works.

Keep in mind that, when writing tone samples, it’s absolutely critical that you keep the same information in each sample. If one tone sample includes, say, a list of products and the other sample has a Q & A section, your client may get distracted by the differences in information and pay less attention to tone.

4. Identify your client’s target audience. Tone is going to vary by audience, so make sure you understand exactly who your client is trying to reach. A website geared toward teenage skateboard enthusiasts will be completely different in tone than a website aimed at nuclear physicists, or retirees, or stay-at-home-moms, etc.

Get More Click-Throughs by Writing Better Links

Have you thought much about the links that you include on your webpage, newsletter, or online marketing materials? Before I started writing for the web, I never really realized how important they were. But those little guys have a lot more to say than you or I might have imagined.

For one, internet scanners might scroll down the page quickly, looking for a brightly colored link that directs them to what they want. Secondly, links let people browse your site at their convenience: You put just a blurb of your free article on your site; If people want to read more, they’ll click through and do it. If they don’t want to read it, then they’re not forced to scroll past your entire article, which didn’t interest them anyway.

So here’s the deal. Good links have a few characteristics in common:

• They’re short – keep them down to just a few words
• They’re descriptive – tell your reader exactly what you want them to do!
• They’re punchy – use action words, and keep those words at the front

As a general rule, you never want to use “Click Here” by itself: it’s not descriptive enough, and you’ve just wasted an opportunity to get your reader to click. Tell them why they’re clicking, such as “Click Here to Join Now” or “Click Here for More Information.”

What to Say?

Now, here comes the technical stuff. When using teasers – or just short blurbs that describe a longer article – there may be some science in how you link readers to new information. In a MarketingSherpa study, the online marketing gurus found that certain words in your links receive better click-through rates.

What is it, you ask? According to MarketingSherpa, “Click to Continue” had the highest click-through conversion – 8.53% — compared to “Continue to article” (3.3%) and “Read more” (1.8%). 

The guys at FutureNow’s blog seem to have their own theories. They don’t seem to think any of the above suggestions are very effective since there’s no call to action.
They suggest that your hyperlink should be persuasive. So instead of writing:

Donate to Save the Sea Turtles! Read More.

They suggest you sell a little harder in your links, like so:

Donate to Save the Sea Turtles! See how much your dollars mean to us.


Baiting the Reader

Now, I’ve saved the best tidbit for last. There is a little trick that you can use that normally piques your readers’ interest, compelling them to click through – I’d even say that this works regardless if you use “Click to continue,” “Read more,” or whatever else you can think of. It’s an old trick, just watch:

Steve had been taking the new trial medication for two weeks, but he still didn’t feel any better. After a quick Google search, he realized that he might be in the “placebo” control group. Read more.

That’s not bad, but watch this:

Steve had been taking the new trial medication for two weeks, but he still didn’t feel any better. After a quick Google search, he realized … Click to continue.

See what I did? By cutting off the text in the middle of the sentence, I’ve left the reader with a question: What did Steve realize? And it’s a pretty irresistible hook. Next time, give readers only a little of what they need to know – make them click through to satisfy their curiosity.

Now, you can take that information and do with it what you will.