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BP: The Crisis of the Crisis


When I heard of Tony Hayward’s yachting activities over the weekend, my mind immediately flashed to a scene in GoodFellas where Paul Servino’s character warns the others of being too flashy with their money because if ‘the feds got wind, they would all go down’. Even mob bosses knew that attracting attention to a bad situation would lead to trouble.

How it equates to the Gulf Oil Crisis – don’t flaunt the fact that you ‘have your life back’ to those whose lives are destroyed.  Why Mr. Hayward was not advised to ‘lay low’ – or did not take that advice – is really a testament to the lack of strategic communications counsel that BP has or is taking.

Not only does it seem that BP has no effective plan to stop the well from gushing oil in the gulf, it seems that the company is unable to stop the gushing of PR gaffes. What’s the plan for the crisis? Seems that BP had no plan in place for any crisis. Clearly there was no effective operational plan, which makes any communications plan useless. Today information is transparent and if you are not honest with the public, your credibility is gone.

Furthermore, the ‘public’ is everyone and anyone outside the decision circle – employees, customers, vendors, analysts, etc. If you are not truthful with these stakeholders they will very publicly correct the record. That’s what we are seeing now with leaked internal documents, contractor testimonies, etc.

So, here’s the top-line lessons for every c-level executive suite: actions count – have a comprehensive operation and communications plan, act quickly, be transparent, be collaborative and be concerned.  Sounds relatively simple, yet most corporations do not have comprehensive plans in place and strategic communications professionals are at the table only when a crisis occurs. Today, when information is spread globally in a click of a mouse, it’s imperative to have an effective plan in place.

More information on BP:

Huffington Post: Bob Dudley New BP Point Man for Oil Spill

NYTimes:  BP Chief Draws Outrage for Attending Yacht Race

NYPost: Firm hides own report of 100k barrels a day

Mirror (UK):  BP Gaffe Joins Long List of Corporate PR Disasters

AP: BP’s Tony Hayward cancels appearance at major London oil conference

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