Leaked: The strategy behind Shell’s low emissions PR push

"we have no immediate plans to move to a net-zero emissions portfolio"

Shell is targeting journalists, policy-makers and millennials with a new strategy to position the oil major as a leading light on the path to a ‘net-zero emissions’ future, according to a leaked document seen by Unearthed.  

The document – a project brief for PR companies – outlines Shell’s aims for the communications project, which include:

  • “Help ‘open doors’ in building relationships with key stakeholders in support of business objectives”
  • “Build Shell’s reputation as an innovative, competitive and forward-thinking energy company of the future”
  • “Brand perception and advocacy”

The communications campaign, which the briefing suggests should include a range of interactive online media and events, centres around a scenario outlined in a recent report entitled A Better Life with a Healthy Planet: Pathways to Net-Zero Emissions.

Though the report heavily informs Shell’s marketing strategy, in it the firm warns:

“While we seek to enhance our operations’ average energy intensity … we have no immediate plans to move to a net-zero emissions portfolio over our investment horizon of 10–20 years”.

The briefing repeatedly reminds applicant PR companies to focus on the importance of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in reducing net emissions, and to emphasise the need for climate solutions across sectors beyond energy, including cities, transport and industry, in their media content.

The brief names Shell’s Make the Future festival held in London in July as an ‘experiential channel’ for promotional content on net-zero emissions.  

Target audiences

Shell identifies the US, Netherlands, UK and Canada as primary markets to target media content towards. Secondary markets include Germany, India, South Africa, Oman, Singapore and the Philippines.

‘Energy Engaged Millennials’ are to be targeted to “develop brand loyalty”. Shell writes that young people are “more open-minded (in general and with respect to Shell)”, and that “as the business influencers, opinion leaders, customers, employees and citizens of the future their views will become increasingly important for Shell as time goes on”.

Another target audience is “Shell special publics”, which includes “government officials, business leaders and partners, major opinion shapers such as editors and columnists in key countries”

Also named are academics, policy organisations, governments (“in some instances reaching ministerial/leaders who are already engaged with Shell”) and “Other business thought leaders”, including IBM, Unilever, Rio Tinto and Siemens.

Looking at media strategy the document notes:

“All our engagement should aim to generate significant media coverage across all channels, from traditional mainstream media to new media online, as well as influence key media players, such as correspondents, editors and columnists, who might shape the views of special publics and energy engaged citizens.”

Read the leaked PR brief in full here.