By Marissa Hall Shale Plays Media | Posted: Tuesday, December 9, 2014 5:36 pm
Photo courtesy of Jessica Sena
Prior to joining Montana Petroleum Association, Jessica Sena was a contributor to Sun Times.
Sometimes the oil and gas industry has difficulty finding positive voices. But two years ago, Jessica Sena brought it to the industry. “I saw the Bakken boom as something so enormously positive and exciting, especially for younger people like myself, ” she said. And she is successfully becoming a voice for the positivity she sees in the industry through the Montana Petroleum Association (MPA) and Northern Oilfield Services, Inc. (NOSI). According to Sena, “working as an independent communications director and consultant for both an industry association and a small oilfield service company is a dream come true. ”
Sena didn’t realize how passionate she was about the industry until relatively recently. She grew up in Montana and Nebraska, and started her college career at Nebraska Wesleyan University. But before she finished, she decided to come back north to finish her degree through Dickinson State University. She made the drive from Grassy Butte every day, an hour drive each way, and finally graduated in 2009 with a Communications and Public Relations degree. But in 2009, there wasn’t much economic development. The boom hadn’t really exploded yet.
Sena moved back to Montana and worked as a ranch hand and housekeeper, followed by a string of odd jobs. After spending some time as a campaign manager and communication director, she realized how fascinating she found natural resource policy. That’s when she reached out to the MPA in 2012. “I saw the opportunities being created by oil activity for lower and middle class individuals and families especially, and at the same time recognized the need for positive industry communication and education, ” she explained. Sena was allowed a part-time, contracted position as an independent communications adviser. Like the boom, though, her role in the MPA and the oil industry only continued to grow, and she is still with the MPA today.
It took a while for Sena to find her footing and become “the biggest oilfield fan there is, ” as she dubs herself. “At first I used Twitter so share news articles, economic findings, etc. with very little of my own views, ” she said. “I didn’t offer my own comments. ” This approach earned her media and industry followers, but it wasn’t capturing the audience she wanted. But now she has embraced her voice. Her Twitter account (@MTPetroleum) is full of loud and proud comments about the oilfield and the people who make it.
Because she’s an independent contractor, Sena has the freedom to broadcast these views without repercussions from MTP or NOSI. “I have the freedom to do and say just about anything, ” she rejoiced. “No one’s scripting me. ” But sharing her views, as positive as they are, came with backlash. “I’ve often been called a hired gun, scum of the earth, a company shill, and other names, ” she recalls. “The insults come with the territory. There are many activists who use anonymous accounts to harass those in the oil and gas industry in particular.”
But she’s started to hear “thank you” in the mix, too, and for Sena, that’s what makes it all worth it. She keeps her focus on bringing positivity into the conversation. “I realized that it truly was more effective to remain positive no matter what,” she says. Sena keeps to this strategy, even when dealing with her more difficult opponents. “Once I invited two of my more frequent adversaries out to coffee so that I could ‘look [them] in the eye when we talk about these important issues. ’ Both took me up on the offer, and neither has criticized anything I’ve posted since! ”
Sena’s sphere of influence in the industry is growing. “Two months ago I was hired by [NOSI], and my true passion was found after working in the field with the crew, ” she said. “It was really eye opening to actually get dressed up in [personal protective equipment] and see things up close and personal. “And now it’s what she looks forward to every month.
Spending time in the field sets Sena apart from other PR representatives. “I actually spend time in the field, have gauged oil tanks, greased polishing rods, and dedicated far more time to reaching out to the men and women in the field to make sure I’m getting the facts right and really speaking their language,” she explains. “It’s important to me to empower them, as much as I educate the public and elected officials about the industry. ”
“These days, ” Sena says, “the natural resources development industry needs a social license to operate.” Fracking debates across the nation have sparked bans in several cities—Los Angeles, California; Denton, Texas; and Athens, Ohio—and other regions are working toward them. St. Tammany Parish is fighting hydraulic fracking in the courtroom while cities in Colorado work to keep their moratoriums by seeking approval from voters. “Public opinion is shaping public policy, ” Sena says. So she works every day to improve the public’s attitude about fracking by giving the Bakken boom a face. Tahnee Peppinger, Miss Montana USA, learning what it’s like to work in the Bakken. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Sena via the Montana Petroleum Association Facebook page)
Sena’s work is also having an amazingly positive impact in NOSI. Since she joined the company and started working with crew in the field, the owner, Bart Horner, has commented on the rise in positivity he sees in his employees. “I think my energy has been a dose of much needed medicine in an industry that is often the target for criticism and negativity, ” Sena said happily.
Sena recently returned from a week in the field with Miss Montana USA, Tahnee Peppenger. She documented the experience through photos and videos posted on the various social media pages she’s involved with through MPA and NOSI.
Outside of work, Sena is the lead singer in “The Essentials, ” a band which plays at a brewery in Helena once a month. Despite her love of the burly lifestyle in the oilfield, she also takes time to shop and spend time in art galleries. Lately, though, Sena says her favorite pastime has quickly become spending time with the men and women of the oilfield. She even cooked Thanksgiving dinner for the crew of a drilling rig, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Thanks to our friends at Shale Plays Media for reprint permission. Visit them at www.bakken.com, or read the original article at http://bakken.com/news/id/227226/passion-bakken-pr-rep-brings-positivity-field/