BP Oil Spill: PR At Its Worst?


I’m not quite sure if any of my colleagues would want to be a part of the public relations team currently involved in ‘handling’ the BP Oil Crisis. I do not know how many people BP has on staff who are a part of its public relations team. I do not know what type of crisis communications plan is currently in place. For now, I think it’s fair to say that it isn’t working. In fact, the company seems to be putting its proverbial foot in its mouth on an ongoing basis with nothing to cap this poor communications problem anytime soon. For instance:

EXAMPLE #1

BP CEO Tony Hayward Comments On Current Situation (L.A. Times)

  • “I’m sorry. We’re sorry for the massive disruption it’s caused their lives. There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I’d like my life back.”

BP Tries To Mop Up PR Mess (CBS News.com)

  • The Financial Times quoted Tony Hayward as saying it was “an entirely fair criticism” that the company wasn’t fully ready. “What is undoubtedly true is that we did not have the tools you would want in your tool kit,” Hayward was quoted as saying. However, Hayward said BP had been successful so far in keeping most of the oil away from the southeastern U.S. coast. “Considering how big this has been, very little has got away from us,” Hayward was quoted as saying. Hayward said the April 20 explosion on an oil rig that caused the leak was a “one in a million chance,” but that risk needed to be cut to one in a billion or even one in a trillion. BP’s latest attempted to stop the leak stalled Wednesday when a diamond-tipped saw became stuck while trying to cut the pipe. The company plans another attempt with giant shears, but said that even if that works it will be less satisfactory than if the saw had completed a clean cut.
  • The brother of one of the deceased who lost his life from the blast of the oil rig sent the BP’s CEO his own message, “I want my brother’s life back.” (CNN TV News)

EXAMPLE #2

BP Response to Gulf Coast Business Claims

  • BP claims paying out $48 million so far

BP Oil Spill: The Impact On Just One Business (CNN TV report)

Bourgeois Charter Fishing Business:

  • The company has had to let its employees go
  • The company is broke and fears losing its home
  • The small business has filed claims via fax to BP for 30 days in a row
  • Business owners say without financial help soon (within the next 30 days) this husband and wife may lose their home
  • This couple says businesses that are their neighbors have not received any money from BP yet either.

Effective PR Can Do More Than You Think


With close to twenty years in the radio, TV, Public Relations and Communications industries, I can offer up some tid bits you may want to consider before you even think about picking up that phone to call a media contact. Here’s just one example of how successful a strategically-based public relations campaign can do more than gain editorial coverage.

Situation
When Levolor Home Fashions was forced to reduce its marketing budget from $4 million to less than $200,000, public relations was the recommended marketing tactic.

Results
Provided national and even international media coverage from TV and print and helped increase key product sales close to 40 percent in less than six months.