The Big Pitch: What should oil companies be doing to prepare themselves for price hikes?

Monty Hagler

Monty Hagler

Monty Hagler

Capital Strategies

Raleigh, NC

Oil companies have to quickly get in front of this volatile consumer

issue. In most cases, the companies are not profiting from the surge in

oil prices; they are simply passing along higher costs resulting from

artificial OPEC oil cutbacks. That story needs to be told


More importantly, oil companies have a rare opportunity to position

themselves as consumer advocates. They must create communication

channels and grass-roots programs - fliers and petitions at the pump,

bumper stickers, phone numbers to call - that allow people paying a

dollars 1.50 or more for a gallon of gas to express their

dissatisfaction with OPEC and Congress.

Booth Gunter

Public Citizen

Washington, DC

There’s another party in this debate: the consumers. Groups like ours

would hope to capitalize on the spike in oil prices by advancing our

energy conservation agenda. By issuing reports, press releases, op-eds

and letters to policy makers - and by mobilizing citizens to write

letters and pose questions to political candidates - we would point the

finger at Congress and the Clinton administration for neglecting energy

efficiency and at the automakers for making bigger and bigger SUVs. We

would try to generate stories saying the US will remain vulnerable to

manipulations by foreign oil suppliers until we substantially reduce our

insatiable thirst for oil.

Diane Steed


Washington, DC

The industry should adopt a strategy that shows concern and puts things

in perspective: today’s gas prices aren’t record highs and represent a

relatively small (dollars 20-25 per month) increase to most consumers

Today’s vehicles range from gas-sippers to SUVs and are twice as

fuel-efficient as ’70s cars. The industry should find third-party

groups, such as AAA, who will make that case and show how changes in

recent years have helped.

The industry should work with senior government leaders on policies to

insulate the US against future oil price shocks (e.g., domestic

production, strategic petroleum reserve, diversified foreign


Megan Mastal

Hill & Knowlton


The oil industry makes an easy target, since it traditionally has not

taken a proactive approach to PR. It should use current concerns to

start building stronger relationships. Rather than focusing on

statistics, which are weak weapons against an emotional pocketbook

issue, the industry should align itself with customers - by creating

relief programs for the disadvantaged, for example. The industry should

illustrate the impact of OPEC and US government policies and taxes on

pricing, while launching an ongoing education campaign that drives home

energy’s critical role in our daily lives. The ultimate goal will be to

build greater understanding and trust - before the next crisis.

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