Jonathan Hill

Z Energy

Z Energy says its brand successes the past year, including leading news media coverage and establishment of a strong social media presence, are largely down to corporate communications manager Jonathan Hill.

Since joining the company at the time Shell's retail assets were purchased in April 2010, Hill has worked to establish and maintain a strong image of the company, internally and externally, as a trusted, local operation prepared to take a stand on customer service and industry issues.

After one year of the new Z brand, the business leads industry metrics on brand recognition, positive experiences, thought leadership and customer willingness to recommend.

And in that time Z has consistently and deliberately generated more media coverage than the rest of the industry combined, and 20 times the positive coverage of its nearest competitor.

Led by Hill, Z has also developed an active social media presence and uses both Facebook and Twitter accounts to tell its story and receive feedback from customers and the community. At the time of the application, it had more than 62,000 Facebook fans, putting it among the top 25 company sites in New Zealand and the only energy player in the top 50.


Z says much of the company's brand success stems from Jonathan's efforts to continually promote its values - to be straight up, bold, to back its people, to have the passion and to share everything - within the company so that staff and management deliver what its customers are looking for.

And Jonathan ensures those same values are reflected in the company's engagement outside the firm, with government, industry and the community.

Determined to turn around the community's distrust of the downstream fuels industry, Z has been open about its plans, its pricing, the new outlets it has rolled out, its successful products - and its less successful ones.

The company has actively discussed with investors, government and the media the challenges facing the fuels industry, including historic poor rates of return, infrastructure under strain, and risks to security of supply.

When rival Chevron shut 20 million litres of storage at Timaru in 2010 - and then refused to sell or lease the assets to Z - Jonathan ran a deliberate and considered campaign through the media and with government agencies to help get the assets back in the market and restore South Canterbury's supply security.

The focus on `local' service carries right down to the company's 220 individual service stations. Each year, each of the company's outlets is given $5,000 to give to local charities of their choice. Onsite staff nominate organisations that they think are making a difference in their local neighbourhoods,  and customers can then vote on how the funding is split among them.

The innovative system, designed by Jonathan, has handed control of an annual $1.2 million sponsorship budget to the company's staff and customers.

Z says the move has not only assisted valuable community groups, but it has boosted staff engagement, given the retail outlets greater community focus and generated a lot of positive local media coverage for the company.

The Young Executive of the Year Award category is sponsored by ABB.