Dave Samson: Power List 2014

GM, public affairs, Chevron

2014 rank: 7
2013 rank: 7

By John Onoda

Onoda is a member of the international advisory board of FleishmanHillard

Using vast amounts of geological data, energy companies can drill down and sideways for miles below the earth’s surface to reach a target the size of a dinner plate. Dave Samson intends to use the same big data approach to benefit Chevron’s communications efforts above the ground, delivering messages with pinpoint accuracy to the individuals and groups who drive public opinion, provide financial backing, shape regulation, grant permission to operate, and track legal matters.

Since these key players influence the success or failure of energy companies, Chevron should approach communicating with them by applying the same rigor it requires for its other operations, Dave maintains.

I was impressed by his knack for presenting complex ideas in ways that generate enthusiastic support from top executives when we first worked together at Levi Strauss in the ’90s, and he has honed it into an art form. His ability to combine vision, use of new technology, sound business logic, and clear explanation is what makes him an exemplar within our profession.

His trademark approach is apparent in the communications relating to Chevron’s litigation with plaintiffs accusing the company of environmental misdeeds in Ecuador. Bold, principled, and comprehensive, the litigation communications he masterminded must be the most sophisticated ever in its use of social media.

Dave’s influence is also apparent in Chevron’s We Agree ad campaign, which underscores the company’s belief in partnerships and finding common ground, rather than confrontation. Because of this positioning, governments and business partners around the world lean toward working with Chevron instead of its competitors. Importantly, the ad campaign reflects the company’s culture and values, which Dave embraces.

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