I don’t know about you, but I literally can’t watch anymore coverage about the oil gusher in the Gulf. It is simply too horrific to watch. The most recent underwater shots of oil spewing from the damaged rig clearly demonstrate the disaster that potentially could impact the region both environmentally and financially for decades.
As the rush to find a solution to the flow of oil continues, what will happen to the reputation of BP? Will it recover or forever be tied to this catastrophic event? Will they suffer the PR damage that Exxon did in 1989 during the spill from the tanker Valdez in Prince William Sound? Or, is there a way to salvage their carefully crafted image of being the “green” oil company?
So far, BP’s PR efforts have been mixed at best. On one hand, they have stated that they are taking “full responsibility for the spill and will clean it up.” No doubt, this was a step in the right direction.
However, their chief exec Tony Hayward didn’t do the company any favors when he said to George Stephanopoulos in an ABC interview that “This wasn’t our accident. This was a drilling rig operated by another company.” Hunh? Not a very smart statement from someone who makes many millions from being the top dog at one of the world’s leading oil companies.
Finger pointing is never a good PR strategy. And, quite frankly, BP’s crisis management team should have prevented this quote from going out on live TV. Not so smart! Since that was aired, I’ve heard this little sound bite of him denying responsibility aired on countless news shows.
As with Tiger Woods not that long ago, I’m always perplexed by the lack of preparedness of celebrities and corporations alike when it comes to crisis management. Perhaps, they have hit such a high degree of “success” that they figure nothing will ever go wrong. Thus, they assume that there’s no reason to be ready for when something bad happens.
However, BP’s inability to prepare for a PR disaster goes hand-in-hand with their lack of emergency preparedness due to the accident itself. Apparently, they were too busy with day-to-day operations and making profits to develop a smart plan of action for their crisis management.
This story will certainly play itself out over the course of the next weeks, months and years. One thing is for certain, BP will take a huge hit to their reputation that they’ve spent many millions cultivating. And, they rightfully should as this nightmarish environmental disaster that supposedly wasn’t “their accident” continues to unfold.