BP’s Public Relations Disaster
Last weekend, British Petroleum CEO Tony Hayward got himself into no small degree of trouble for saying that he hoped the Gulf Oil Spill was over with quickly because “I’d like my life back.” This weekend, BP is out with an ad that seems to be causing more public relations problems for the embattled company:
MIAMI — An apologetic advertising campaign by BP PLC for the oil spill polluting the Gulf of Mexico is going over about as well as the tar balls and rust-colored froth washing ashore in the Florida Panhandle.
The new radio, TV, online and print ads feature BP CEO Tony Hayward pledging to fix the damage caused by an undersea gusher of crude oil unleashed by an April 20 drilling rig explosion that killed 11 people.
The company will honor financial claims and “do everything we can so this never happens again,” he says in the spots.
The ads began appearing last week and have been criticized by President Barack Obama, who said the money should be spent on cleanup efforts and on compensating fishermen and small business owners who have lost their jobs because of the spill.
The ads also don’t thrill residents and visitors of the Gulf Coast, where the oil has blackened some beaches and threatens others. And others say the sentiments come to soon and insincerely.
“Their best advertising is if they get this cap (in place) and they get everything cleaned up. All you’ve got to do is do your job, and that’s going to be plenty of good advertising,” said Grover Robinson IV, chairman of the Escambia County, Fla., Commission, referring to BP’s efforts to place a cap over the gushing pipe and capture the oil.
BP spokesman Robert Wine said in an e-mail Saturday that “not a cent” has been diverted from the oil spill response to pay for the ad campaign. He didn’t know its cost.
“All available resources are being deployed, and efforts continue at full strength,” he wrote.
That may be, but that’s not the impression that’s being created.
BP is in a difficult position because, in addition to it’s duty to clean up the oil spill, it also has, as George Will noted this morning on This Week, a fiduciary duty to it’s shareholders to preserve the value of the company. Nonetheless, this ad doesn’t seem to me to be the best way to do that:
Want to protect your brand, BP ? Stop running ads, get Tony Hayward out of the public eye, be completely open with the press about what you’re doing, and just do everything you need to do to stop the oil gusher and clean up the damage you caused.