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
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
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
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.