This field-based case explores what happened when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world's oil market. ConocoPhillips, a global leader in energy exploration and production, had withstood many oil price cycles in its time, but COVID-19 caused a crash that sent prices plummeting and investors scattering.
Ellen DeSanctis, the senior vice president of corporate relations for ConocoPhillips, needed to collaborate with her executive colleagues to develop possible actions in response to the sudden downturn and recommend how to best communicate the company’s response. The worst thing a company could do in times of market confusion was to go dark, especially if it had a strong reputation for engagement. At a time when many companies were laying low, DeSanctis and her team agreed it would be important for the market to hear about the company’s views and actions, even if it was early days. DeSanctis envisioned a press release. Maybe even a conference call. But if a call were to take place, the company would get questions, and there were few answers at the time. Decisions made by DeSanctis and ConocoPhillips might directly impact the company’s stock, possibly for the worse.
Together, DeSanctis and her team needed to figure out the correct communication strategy. There was no time to waste. But what could be said when the future was so unclear?