1982 “Evolution of Mobil Public Affairs Programs” Report

This “Evolution of Mobil’s Public Affairs Programs 1970-1981” report outlines oil major Mobil Corporation’s public affairs (PA) strategy to influence opinion leaders and the public through their advertorial program, media blitzes, and think tank collaboration. First released on Amy Westervelt’s podcast Drilled, and featured in her Washington Post editorial, this document further elucidates how the fossil fuel industry convinced media outlets that climate change was debatable.

The stated mission of Mobil’s PA program was “to help [the American people] reach the conclusions necessary for sound public policy.” This document was Mobil PA’s report on how they executed this mission. Championing their “determined advocacy” Mobil highlighted that its “Op-Ed program and our support for ‘Masterpiece Theatre,’ in particular, have enabled this company to become part of the ‘collective unconscious’ of the nation, as the changed views of opinion leaders have gradually molded general public opinion.” 

I. Mobil and NYT

As Westervelt’s editorial highlighted, in determining methods to influence opinion leaders and the general public, the report determined that “[o]ne of the most effective” ways was “to buy advertising space.” The report reasoned that the editorial section was a “must-read” for opinion leaders “ … And the Times’ readership encompasses some important publics.” Beyond the social elite, the advertorial also “engag[ed] in continuing debate with the New York Times itself.”

Over the ten-year period of advertorials studied by Mobil PA, they found a “substantial change in The New York Times,” finding that it had “altered or significantly softened its viewpoint to positions similar to Mobil’s on at least seven key energy issues: Conservation; Monopoly and Divestiture; Decontrol; Natural Gas; Coal; Offshore Drilling; [and] Gasohol.”

In addition to NYT, they ran their advertorials and other earned media in papers and news broadcast outlets throughout the country. Mobil prided itself on its “media blitzes,” direct engagement to “journalists — and journalists-to-be,” and the reputation as the “‘most active’ oil company in ‘seeking out’ the press.” For example, the report highlighted a 1980 “major breakthrough” when Mobil’s “issue-oriented ‘fable’ commercials aired on 54 independent stations … [and] reached about 22 million viewers.” They also implemented broadcast commercials, entitled “Mobil Information Center,” distributed to “about 50 million viewers a month.”

II. Importance of Think Tanks

In Mobil’s search for opinion leaders to influence, the report identified “members of the academic community and the ‘think tanks’ that generate new ideas which may eventually become part of a national consensus” as important targets.

To that end, Mobil “strengthened relations with influential ‘think tanks,’ which began to issue an increasing volume of materials questioning the ‘left-of-center’ wisdom of the time. These institutions included the American Enterprise Institute, the Hoover Institution, and the Heritage Foundation. By so doing, Mobil indirectly participated in changing the national climate of opinion, which manifested itself in the 1980 election. These activities also paid off by giving Government Relations staff early access to several key executives in the present Administration, since they were drawn from these organizations.”

They also highlighted how they combatted Ford Foundation’s report calling for conservation.  

III. Other Targeted Outreach

Mobil leveraged their assets to make their views known at every level of society. Beyond think tanks, for instance, Mobil knew how important it was to have a presence in local communities. Pursuant to that goal, they “targeted” Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs, little league teams, schools, and other local clubs and leaders. All the while Mobil’s “top executives” travelled throughout the country with “heavy backup support from Public Relations.”

At the legislative level, Mobil was equally as concerted. The report highlighted an instance when Senator Russell Long distributed a Mobil advertorial to “every member of the Senate.” The report also highlighted that before the 1973 oil embargo, “the Administration was sympathetic to the oil industry, and oil industry representatives generally had plenty of opportunity to communicate with officials and members of Congress.”

IV. Mobil and The American Petroleum Institute

The American Petroleum Institute (API) was an important part of implementing Mobil’s PA strategy. Working on issues like the mid-70’s energy shortage, or push for oil company divestment, the API acted as amplification and cover for Mobil’s stances.

The following are examples of projects highlighted by the report where API contributed: 

  • Mobil and API fought Congress– lining up witnesses and producing testimony
  • API coordinated“expanded Media Relations effort, with visits by top executives to newspapers in key cities …”
  • API survey of Mobil advertorials

Unfortunately, our team was unable to find a complete copy of this report. Do you have a complete copy? Submit securely and anonymously here: http://www.climatedocleaks.com/. Visit PolluterWatch for the most complete collection of Mobil (and ExxonMobil) advertisements.

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