SAN FRANCISCO —  Dave Samson, who has led Chevron’s public affairs for 16 years, is joining Edelman as vice chair of corporate affairs.

In the newly created role, Samson will serve as client counselor to Edelman’s corporate and crisis clients, as well as to some of the firm’s largest accounts. He also will help expand the annual Edelman Trust Barometer.

Samson announced plans to retire from the energy giant late last year. Chevron promoted Kent Robertson, manager of global external affairs, to replace Samson as public affairs general manager. Samson plans to stay at Chevron through April, then will join Edelman on May 1, reporting to Katie Burke, chief strategy office and global head of practices and sectors. 

Calling Samson “the most respected person in corporate communications,” CEO Richard Edelman said hiring Samson reflects the growing need to provide high-calibre help to companies navigating today’s increasingly complex political and business environment.

“Could there be a more important time?” Edelman said. Forces from the rise in global populism to technology “is making the corporate affairs function the absolutely essential one at corporations.”

Samson said he was drawn to Edelman, with which Chevron has a partnership, by the agency’s independence, scale and culture — and his ability to counsel the corporations he has helped steer from within.

“The value I bring is, I have sat in their seat,” Samson said. “What I bring to this role is an understanding how decisions get made, understanding the culture inside companies and having sat in their seat."

At Chevron, Samson was known for taking a feisty approach to protecting Chevron’s reputation, particularly around the most high-profile threats to the company’s image, from charges related to the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ecuadorian rain forest, to spearheading the company’s response to climate change. He led a team responsible for all aspects of corporate communications, including media relations, employee communications, executive communications and issues management, as well as corporate branding and advertising.

Earlier in his career, he was Oracle’s VP of international communications, a Ketchum partner and VP of global communications at Levi Strauss. He was inducted into the Page Society’s Hall of Fame in 2018.

Hiring Samson is the latest move by Edelman to bolster its corporate affairs practice, which most recently included hiring Jim Prosser to lead the West Coast practice creation of a new unit within the practice, Edelman Business Marketing, that specializes in helping B2B companies execute more sophisticated marketing plans. In addition, the firm recently hired Pfizer's Kirsty Graham as CEO of global public affairs.