Communications at IOGP: New faces and a fond farewell
IOGP’s new Communications Director is Ritva Westendorf-Lahouse. A secondee from ExxonMobil in Germany, she started her new role on 1st November, succeeding Olaf Martins (also an ExxonMobil secondee), who is now the Company’s EU Affairs Manager in Brussels.
Ritva started her career as an upstream lawyer, but has been in communications (public and government affairs) since 2011. “Our industry has a great story to tell,” she says. “Along with my team at IOGP, I can’t wait to take the facts to as wide a public as possible, using our collective background in media (both social and conventional) and communications in general.”
To learn more about Ritva’s views on her new role, visit her opinion piece on the IOGP website.
Also new to the Secretariat Communications team is Arianna Checchi, seconded from Eni to serve as the Association’s Global Engagement Manager. What attracted her to the role? “The global focus was particularly appealing, with the opportunity of working with different oil and gas companies across the world. Becoming part of the London business environment was also an attraction. But most of all, I relished the challenge of taking a leading role in advocating in favour of the industry,” she says.
IOGP was already familiar to her. “I first heard about the Association in 2006, when I was an intern at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Brussels. Then, when I was a PhD student, I came across IOGP when I was preparing a dissertation on the gas exporting policies of Algeria, Norway, Russia and the Netherlands in connection with the EU,” Arianna recalls. Once she joined IOGP member Eni, in its Gas and Power Division, she represented her company on one of the Association’s task forces on natural gas. “Thanks to that experience, some of the people I work with today – either members or staff – are familiar and friendly faces.” Arianna’s experience in the gas business at Eni gave her a solid understanding of the market dynamics of the industry, she says.
In the last 6 years at Eni, Arianna was part of the International Affairs Department, giving her sound experience of working with global organizations, foreign and national institutions, think tanks and energy Associations and consultancies. Moreover, as a result of her last role as an institutional and geopolitics analysis and scenarios manager, she has “A solid understanding of global geopolitical dynamics,” she says.
Arianna’s academic background has positioned her well for her work at IOGP. “I chose International Relations at the University of Bologna (her native city) in Italy and then pursued an MA in International Relations and International Economics at Johns Hopkins University in both Bologna and Washington, DC, she says. On top of that, she has a PhD in Political Science from the University of Florence. “In my year in Washington, I started to
be fascinated by the geopolitical dynamics of oil and gas and therefore, decided to focus my PhD dissertation on that. Very soon I realized that the oil and gas sector was much more than that: engineering, entangled with economics and law always linked to a specific local, national and international context. My roles at Eni and IOGP have allowed me to pursue those interests on a professional basis,” she says.
As IOGP’s new Global Engagement Manager, she will be reaching out to a wide variety of stakeholders, including the broader public and young people. “My greatest challenge will be pointing out the importance that energy plays in our lives and to what extent that energy is generated from oil and gas. Success will be measured in the number and quality of relationships that I can help build and nurture between the Association and key target audiences to bring IOGP’s view – directly or indirectly – into every single international energy debate.”
When Arianna isn’t advocating for oil and gas around the world, she is enjoying her new life in London. “I love its vibe, dynamism, diversity and infinite options and opportunities,” she says.
As for Olaf, he leaves IOGP after putting the Association’s communications efforts on a sound footing, particularly with regard to promoting the benefits of oil and gas within the context of energy transitions triggered
by climate change concerns – which was what attracted him to the role in the first place. “I like breaking new ground and leading IOGP’s efforts in this area was a great opportunity. With support from both the Management and Communications Committees, we put in place processes and channels that helped to position the Association as the voice of the global upstream industry on these issues,” Olaf says.
These yielded some tangible results. “Starting from scratch, we produced 160 numbers of the week, 50 opinion pieces and three Global Production Reports. All advanced the idea that oil and gas are integral to the world’s current and future prosperity and provide an essential complement to renewables.”
Under Olaf’s leadership IOGP also raised its presence on social media. “For example, the Association’s Twitter following increased in number from 2,000 to 60,000,” Olaf records, adding that a significant proportion of this increase was due to cooperation from Member Companies.
“For me, though, the most effective way of communicating is direct engagement,” Olaf says. Establishing links and face-to-face encounters with global decision-makers were early priorities, he recalls. Starting with academia and organisations such as the Model United Nations, the Communications Team expanded efforts to include official representation at the G20 (through its business arm) and UN’s COP sessions on climate change.
“Involvement in those bodies were probably the most gratifying achievement in my time at IOGP – and certainly raised the Association’s profile among global leaders.”
Olaf looks back on his time at IOGP as a learning experience. “It soon became obvious that the more alliances we created, the more effective we were. Networks – both formal and informal – are the way forward. Internally within IOGP and its Members and externally with other bodies, we’re stronger and more effective when working together. And equally important, I learned to seize opportunities as they arise.
And finally, if I were asked to give any advice to IOGP’s Communications Team in London and Brussels – not that they need it – I would urge them to be open and embrace opportunities as they arise. If they don’t, create them yourself. To avoid losing by default, in any debate nothing is more important than being there.”