LPG leaders stress importance of communication post-pandemic

April 22, 2021 By    

The way we communicate with one another – and the way we behave – has changed during the pandemic.

We still yearn for a sense of normalcy, such as when we can visit again at an industry trade show or conference without the fear of COVID-19 dominating our thoughts and actions.

While that’s beginning to happen this year with in-person meetings and events back on the industry schedule, in reality some things may never return to the way they were pre-pandemic.

The propane industry is preparing for that new reality, and it’s why the World LPG Association (WLPGA) gathered about 450 registrants from around the globe during a virtual communications summit earlier this year.

“It does feel like a recovery is coming, and the industry has to be prepared,” says Michael Kelly, chief advocacy officer and deputy managing director for the WLPGA, who moderated the three-hour summit.

For the propane industry, that means recognizing just how much everything around it has changed, perhaps permanently. That theme was echoed on more than one occasion during the summit.

“We are at a major turning point in our industry,” says Henry Cubbon, managing director of DCC LPG and president of the WLPGA.

“Coming out of the COVID crisis, one thing is certain: We will not go back to business as usual.”

A new, dynamic world awaits with opportunities and threats, and things are going to change quickly, Cubbon adds.

Propane progression

In some ways, COVID-19 accelerated what was already happening in the propane industry, says Michelle Bimson Maggi, vice president, law, at AmeriGas, a panelist during the summit.

“We see a much greater shift to propane companies using technology – digital marketing, digital advertising,” she says. “These things are going to play a much greater role in the way our customers use our product and the way they interact with our companies.”

COVID-19 also highlighted for some industries and consumers the versatility and resiliency of propane, opening opportunities for future growth.

The industry has already witnessed expanded use of propane-fueled appliances like patio heaters and fire pits for outdoor living and for businesses – especially restaurants – using more outdoor spaces.

As propane has met the needs of the people during the pandemic, the winter brought extreme cold and ensuing power outages to Texas – a story not lost on many of the global summit presenters. That severe weather event spoke to the role propane can play in emergencies.

“We can go a step further – LPG is not just here in emergencies,” says Steve Kaminski, president and CEO of the National Propane Gas Association and a summit panelist. “Without the infrastructure of the LPG facilities in the United States, we won’t have access to this emergency need. We have to support the whole infrastructure.”

Targeted messaging

Policymakers make up one of several groups the propane industry in the U.S. is targeting with new messaging that shows how it can be a key part of the clean energy conversation.

The aim, Kaminski says, is for advocacy groups, consumers, thought leaders, journalists and propane marketers to help carry the industry’s core campaign messages. Those messages are based on propane’s role in accelerating decarbonization and providing equitable access to clean, affordable energy.

“We have a great story to tell, but we need to tell it as often as we can to as many people as we can,” Bimson Maggi says.

Though the global LPG industry faces a diverse set of challenges and energy environments, leaders agree that it must develop and communicate the right messages for the recovery ahead. Otherwise, it risks getting lost in the energy shuffle.

“We are the unsung hero, but if that’s the case, who’s going to sing our song?” asks James Rockall, CEO of the WLPGA. “We need allies, we need champions, and we need to educate and influence people.”

About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at brichesson@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3748.

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