Charting the future of public relations

Oil Giant Saudi Aramco Rethinks Global Comms Strategy

The world’s largest oil company is rethinking its communications strategy as it undertakes an ambitious corporate transformation.

Arun Sudhaman

Arun Sudhaman

DHAHRAN, SAUDI ARABIA--Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, is rethinking its global communications strategy as it undertakes an ambitious corporate transformation.

The company is understood to be actively seeking public relations agency support across a wide range of areas, including media relations, internal communications, and event management.

The review covers Saudi Aramco’s operations in the Gulf, North America and Asia, indicating a substantial PR budget. The company currently works with several agencies across these markets, including Hill + Knowlton Strategies and Fleishman-Hillard.

The state-owned entity manages the world’s largest proven crude oil reserves, accounting for around one in 10 of every barrel of crude oil in the world. It is also the world’s largest exporter of natural gas liquids, and a leading producer of natural gas.

Enhanced communications are seen as being particularly important to Saudi Aramco’s attempts to broaden its development, which the company refers to as its Accelerated Transformation Programme (ATP). In addition to growing non-conventional gas resources, the company is also stepping up efforts to expand its downstream capabilities.

Key ATP priorities were outlined by Saudi Aramco president and CEO Khalid A. Al-Falih during a speech in Washington DC last year. They include a focus on expanding the company’s global refining capacity, which includes joint ventures with Sumitomo Chemical, Total and Dow Chemical in Saudi Arabia.

Al-Falih also pointed out that the ATP will address “soft issues”, such as shifting demographics in the workforce; Saudi Arabia has a large youth population and, by 2016, nearly 40 percent of Saudi Aramco’s employees will be under the age of 40.

The significance of a sophisticated internal comms strategy, which is understood to account for a substantial proportion of the PR budget, is underlined by Al Falih’s comment that “we must proactively prepare Saudi Aramco for these young people by rethinking the way the company engages with them as well as the stimuli it provides to its people.”

After observing the importance of technology and social media to these engagement efforts, and the different expectations of the company’s younger workers, the Saudi Aramco CEO adds that the company’s own management culture needs to change in response to these shifts.

Multiple briefs are understood to be in play, with an international focus. The company has numerous interests in global markets, including a US joint venture with Shell, and joint ventures in China, Korea and Japan.

Saudi Aramco is considered the world’s largest private company, with estimates of the its value ranging from $2 trillion to $7 trillion.  

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