All week, I’ve been trying to come up with something original to say about the BP debacle and it’s nearly impossible. What I think is most stunning, though, is the bright idea someone had to run a television ad with BP CEO Tony Hayward telling viewers that we have a real mess in the Gulf. That we’d learn the cost of the ad is sort of besides the point. What’s troubling as far as our profession goes is the reference to BP’s PR problem.
It’s clear that, like Toyota, BP didn’t react swiftly, and the longer you take to comment or claim responsibility, the faster your critics assume that role. And the critics are coming in all different guises, from financial gurus to PR crisis management experts. Today, for instance, a news report revealed that BP is paying big bucks to appear at the top of Internet searches for items like “oil spill” and other similar phrases. The first site to appear is www.BP.com/OilSpillNews with this tagline: “Info about the Gulf of Mexico Spill Learn More about How BP is Helping.”
Do you think that’s helping? It seems like this company is doing all it can to spin the truth. Maybe what they should do is figure out all the different ways the company can help and be truthful about that help. For instance, what about all the BP gas station owners who are dealing with an angry public? To be fair, they didn’t have a whole lot to do with the spill, yet many of them are hurting financially because some of us don’t want to be caught filling our cars up at those stations. (I’m one of them actually.)
What are these big companies afraid of? If it’s the truth, then yes, they have something to be fearful of. But the truth almost always comes out, right? Sometimes, the crime of the fib is worse than the original misdeed. That seems so obvious from where we’re all sitting, right?
Why can’t BP see what we can see?