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Got a Story Idea? • Events
Association Bisnow
December 20, 2007


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Every two weeks, the sterling-credentialed Red Cavaney—CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, and former CEO of the American Plastics Council and the American Forest and Paper Association—sits down for a significant part of the API’s communications effort:  a press conference for bloggers.  Bisnow swung by to find out what a respectable guy like Red is doing with a bunch of sketchy Internet types.  (Oh wait . . . that includes us!)

Beyond his association experience, Red served in the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations.  He was the Gipper’s Deputy Assistant for Public Liason from 1981-83. Red is happy with the new energy bill, which he says includes some positive changes (increased CAFE standards) without unfairly taxing the oil industry, which he says an early version did.

The API, which represents the nation’s oil and natural gas industry, is using the regular blogger conferences to advance its goal of raising the country’s “energy literary.”  Red’s theory is that in order to solve the nation’s energy problems, people need to understand what the facts are first.  (And if you score as low as we did on the API’s Energy IQ test offered at, you kinda see his point.)

A year ago, he was brainstorming about new avenues through which API could explain complex energy issues to the public.  (The API was already doing national and targeted advertising, speaking at town-hall-style meetings, and conducting “tech tours” to demonstrate how drilling operations actually work.)  Red started devoting 90 minutes each day to reading energy discussions on the Internet, and found that some blogs had more educational, detailed analysis of issues than often found in space-constrained print pieces. So last spring, with the help of public affairs firm Edelman, API invited a group of energy bloggers—like those at—to ask him questions on a conference call.

The one and only time that Red ever went hunting, he felled this magnificent creature with a single shot from 200 yards away.  It’s a trophy deer with a “B&C Score” of 159 (just in case you have any idea what that means, which we don’t).  Red keeps it in his office because “I have no place to put it at home.”

It was such a hit that Red has been holding bi-weekly conferences with bloggers ever since.  (API Chief Economist John Felmy steps in when Red’s schedule doesn’t allow.)   The API says it now has reached out to more than 100 blogs across the political spectrum, with an average of 10-12 attending the calls.  About a third of the calls have a scheduled topic, but Red says the floor is open to any question.  He finds the blog sessions a relief from ordinary press conferences, which he likens to a “tennis match of sound bites” between reporters and their subjects.  The bloggers, according to Red, tend to be more interested in facts than zingers.

Red fashioned his stand-up desk from something he found in a barn.  There’s plenty of time to sit in meetings, he says.

The API has taken its blogger events beyond press conferences.  It has escorted two groups of bloggers on trips to oil rigs off the Gulf Coast in order to observe real-life drilling operations.  And in October, Red arranged a panel discussion featuring three energy bloggers at the API’s annual meeting.  The point wasn’t just to hear their views on oil and gas issues—Red says he wanted to introduce his industry members to the idea of communicating with blogs themselves.

Arent Fox
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
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