Friday, April 27, 2012

Exxon's Strategic Miss-Communication

Defining ‘Strategic Communications’ is sort of like defining ‘Obscenity,’ no one really knows how to do it, but they know it when they see it.

I make this point because the simple truth is most companies don’t have a clue about strategic communications or how to deliver it.  And the bigger they are, seemingly the worse they get at it. This thought occurred to me when I was listening to some very poorly informed people on the news discuss corporate taxation in the US a few days ago.  The comment was made that several large corporations paid little or no income tax and the corporation that was held up as the exemplar of no good, rotten companies that aren’t paying their fair share was Exxon-Mobil.

The facts are a bit different: Exxon-Mobil has received quite a bit of notoriety for having achieved the largest single yearly profit of any corporation in history: $41 billion in 2011.

But, of course, one number doesn’t really tell the story very accurately.  In 2010 (the last year for which I could find all the numbers, Exxon earned $7.5 billion inside the US.  But, total taxes paid in the US were $9.8 billion.  Exxon paid more in taxes then it earned.  And it does every year in the US.  But it gets worse.  Exxon operates in more than 100 countries around the world – many of them those developing countries that are being exploited.  Exxon does several things to those countries: it employs people, develops energy assets, and pays taxes.  The energy assets are obvious: that’s what Exxon does.  But it does it while employing more than 100,000 people world wide – most in those developing countries.  And, while generating revenue of $467 billion last year worldwide, Exxon paid $108 Billion in taxes.  Exxon paid total taxes equivalent to 23% of their total revenue.

I know this because I am, I suppose, a bit of a geek who reads financial reports and corporate statements about this and that.  Why isn’t this a bit more common knowledge?  Because Exxon-Mobil leadership fell short.

Here’s the thing: if Exxon-Mobil has no marketing plan, and no strategic communications plan, and hasn’t paid a dime for any such plan, then I can understand this level of miss-information.  But if there actually is a marketing department, and a strategic communications plan, then it has failed – miserably.  The Chairman needs to do something – he owes that to the stockholders.  

If he wants any ideas, I would be happy to help – give me a call or e-mail me.  But do something.

For the record, I own no stock in Exxon-Mobil, I have never received a dime from them; I’m quite sure I don’t know anyone employed by Exxon.


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