API axes 71% of pros in PR facelift

WASHINGTON, DC: The American Petroleum Institute (API), a trade association representing the nation’s petroleum industry, has overhauled its communications operations and slashed its PR staff by more than two-thirds.

WASHINGTON, DC: The American Petroleum Institute (API), a trade association representing the nation’s petroleum industry, has overhauled its communications operations and slashed its PR staff by more than two-thirds.

WASHINGTON, DC: The American Petroleum Institute (API), a trade

association representing the nation’s petroleum industry, has overhauled

its communications operations and slashed its PR staff by more than

two-thirds.



One year ago, the API boasted two departments charged with overseeing

communications and a separate office for public affairs, amounting to 38

PR staffers. After recent cutbacks, however, the three components have

been folded into one, leaving the institute with a mere 11

communications pros. The group once had seven VPs; it currently employs

three.



While several industry onlookers attributed the cutbacks to falling oil

prices, at least part of the reason for the cuts can be assigned to a

shift in the group’s mentality.



Current president Red Cavaney, who took over in the fall of 1997,

reassessed the API’s PR setup, attempting to align its communications

operations with overall industry organization.



’We need to better align API with the way our fellow companies have

restructured to work,’ said director of communications Jim Craig. ’We’ll

be smoother, leaner, and provide real value to our membership.’



Craig declined to provide specific figures on the extent to which API’s

PR budget had been reduced, and would not discuss whether the new

organization has definite plans to seek outside strategic counsel in

order to compensate for the internal reductions.



Though the communications department is substantially smaller than

before, Craig contends its increasing use of new technologies will

render it more effective. ’Using the Internet to communicate with key

constituencies opens up a whole new world of opportunity,’ he said,

adding that a proposed electronic newsletter would likely be cheaper to

produce and distribute than the current print version.



The API has experimented with new technologies in the past, but has yet

to fully implement such processes. Craig pointed to a prior webcast of a

news conference as an example. While the event was not totally

successful, he believes that newer technology will make such efforts

more manageable than before, thereby streamlining the communications

process.



Craig is a former journalist who served as Washington bureau chief for

The Houston Post. After a stint as director of public affairs at the US

International Trade Commission, he spent nearly a decade as director of

PR at API.



Art Wiese, formerly VP for public affairs, will remain as an API

consultant until the end of the year.



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