Light ‘Em Up: Oil Industry Carves Out Space in Pumpkin PR Battle

By / Oct 30, 2013 (iStock/Thinkstock)

After the Department of Energy slighted fossil fuels in a recent pumpkin-themed promotion, the American Petroleum Institute carved out a spot in the conversation with some shareable jack-o-lantern stencils of its own. The offbeat saga offers a smashing lesson in public relations.

When the U.S. Department of Energy jumped on this week’s Halloween theme and rolled out a series of pumpkin stencils depicting ways to “energize your neighborhood,” there was something missing.

DOE’s stencil page includes a compact fluorescent lamp (it uses one-fourth the energy of an incandescent light bulb), a solar energy panel, and wind turbine among the options. But no gas and oil.

The American Petroleum Institute (API), which represents the oil and gas industry, caught the oversight right away.

API wondered how the DOE could have left out the fuels that it says account for 62 percent of the energy resources Americans use, writing in a blog post, “[W]e thought maybe it was some kind of holiday trick.”

But rather than just cry foul, API got creative—producing stencils of its own and using social media to get the word out.

API offered its own take on energy issues, with a message behind each of its designs. The stencils include:

  • An American flag, emphasizing the role of the United States as the world’s top oil and natural gas producer.
  • A construction worker, symbolizing the 3.3 million jobs that API says will be created by 2020 in the “unconventional oil and natural gas revolution.”
  • A voltmeter, illustrating API’s projection that from now until 2040, the oil and natural gas industry will fuel 60 percent of American energy use.

The DOE’s page suggests, “[W]hile you’re stocking up on pumpkins, fall sweaters, and Halloween candy, it’s also a great time to think about actions you can take to save energy and money at home.”

API’s states, “With colder weather creeping across the country, we think of the energy the U.S. oil and natural gas industry is providing for Americans’ lives, including heating homes and businesses.”

Who knew a little pumpkin carving could spur such a big conversation?

API’s novel response is a great example of taking back the messaging on social media and elsewhere. How have you used social media to push your industry’s messaging forward? Let us know in the comments.

Emma Beck

Emma Beck is a contributor to Associations Now. More »


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