#PRAwards 2021 spills: Vena Energy's greater focus on internal communications


Vena Energy came in as one of the finalist in the Best Employee Engagement/Internal Communications category at this year’s PR Awards 2021. Wanting to create an inclusive workforce in the renewable energy sector and draw in more women in the leadership position as currently, the team created a “Women in Power” campaign that highlighted female employees from all nine of its operating jurisdictions across the Asia Pacific region. These markets included Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. Daniel Lee, group head, communications, Vena Energy shares with us the proudest moments the team had last year and what the future holds. 

This interview is done as part of MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s winners and finalists’ interview series for PR Awards 2021. To find out more about the awards, click here.

What would you say was the biggest accomplishment for the whole PR/communications community in 2020?

Lee: I think our ability to pivot quickly towards digital and virtual platforms, while still maintaining—or in some cases increasing—employee engagement was our biggest accomplishment in 2020.

Internal communications took on a greater role, particularly during the lockdown and the transition to working-from-home. Human beings are social creatures that can only thrive through interaction and cooperation. Rather than being on the backburner, internal communications enabled the leadership to keep our employees updated of our business continuity and contingency plans, how the pandemic may potentially affect our business and jobs, and at the same time mitigate any anxiety, loss of motivation or direction during the extended periods of isolation.

What would you say was your proudest achievement of the year?

Lee: The proudest achievement for me this past year was, and still is, the overwhelming support and words of encouragement that our #WomenInPower campaign has received from our colleagues and via followers of our social media channels every month. The premise of the campaign is that climate change has no gender bias, and that women can, and should be given equal opportunities and rights to contribute to the sustainability of our planet and species through Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) roles.

Since the launch of our #WomenInPower campaign we have also seen an increase in the number of women in STEM-related roles at Vena Energy grow to 30% at the end of December 2020, exceeding the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) estimates in 2019. While we continue to strive towards closing the gender gap at Vena Energy, we hope that the Women In Power campaign will continue to inspire not only female professionals to join us, but also encourage more young women to take up STEM-related subjects in school, so that they may also one day lend their unique strengths and perspectives to creating a more sustainable world.

Of course, receiving the finalist award at the annual PR Awards 2021 for the Best Employee Engagement / Internal Communications was the icing on the cake for us at Vena Energy, and one that we share with all the amazing women that shared their stories and insights with us.

(Read also: #PRAwards 2020 highlight: How Vena Energy drew females to STEM with empowerment campaign)

What are some communications trends you see carrying on post-pandemic?

Lee: I believe that the trend of establishing regular virtual employee touchpoints will carry on post-pandemic. The pandemic highlighted the importance employee engagement and internal communications, particularly when air travel is restricted, and the leadership is much less visible. When Vena Energy transitioned to working-from-home in March 2020, we help frequent townhalls with all our nine operating jurisdictions on the progress of our renewable energy development, business continuity, as well as guidance on the wellbeing of our employees. We also introduced skip-level meetings between our employees and the executive leadership via Microsoft Teams. These virtual interactions helped many of our colleagues feel less isolated and reduced a lot of the stress and uncertainty, especially during the lockdowns in several of the countries that we operate in.

We were also mindful about how the messages are being communicated. A multi-disciplinary taskforce was set-up by our CEO, Nitin Apte, to better understand what our employees would like to hear more of, and which channels were best suited to convey the messages. Through our surveys and conversations with our colleagues, we were able to fine-tune the messaging, channels and frequencies, which provided the leadership with a more efficient and engaging means of employee communication.

How will the role of communications professionals evolve as we move into a rather uncertain future?

Lee: Communications professionals should add sustainability to their portfolio, and become familiar with the principles of Environmental and Social Governance (ESG), and how it impacts their company’s reputation in the markets that they operate in. Sustainable development has come a long way since it was first introduced by the United Nations in 1987, to the point that today it has become integral to the success of a company or brand.

External stakeholders are now looking beyond the company’s goods and services and starting to focus on their impact on the environment, biodiversity, and the community. We have all read news stories about companies involved in habitat destruction, threats to wildlife and endangered species, and exploitive labor practices, and these will not only impact the company’s reputation amongst their consumers purchasing their products, but also investors’ confidence in the governance of the company. In lieu of dedicated sustainability professionals within their organizations, I believe that communications professionals should provide counsel to the management on the best ESG practices, and how they should be implemented across the organization. By including their company’s ESG initiatives and communicating its social value and impact will be key in managing the reputational capital.

What can we expect from your company in 2021?

Lee: Vena Energy will continue to accelerate the energy transition across the Asia-Pacific region, and we are very excited about several solar and wind projects that will become operational this year. We also look forward to engaging and contributing to the sustainability and wellbeing of our host communities through our social initiatives in healthcare, infrastructure, education, and job creation.

We recently launched our Vena Energy VENUS Initiative, which supports female undergraduates in STEM-related courses at the local universities through academic sponsorships, and to develop future female talent that will contribute to the acceleration of the region’s energy transition and play an active role in contributing to the sustainable development of our planet. We just kicked-off the sponsorship with the Nanyang Technological University in April, and we are looking to expand the program in our other operating jurisdictions as well. The VENUS Initiative will also include our ongoing Women In Power campaign, which we hope will continue to inspire more women to join Vena Energy or the renewable energy industry.