Archive for May, 2010

BP: from Natural Disaster to PR Disaster

BP_logo_823200753158AMThe scope of the oil spill in the Gulf is likely unprecedented. According to Slashfood, “Experts predict that Louisiana’s fishing industry alone could face a $2.5 billion loss.”

Not to mention that obscene damage done to the Gulf Coast aquaculture!

With clean-up efforts underway at a mad pace, what’s next for BP? Can it ever recover the damage done to its brand?

On the one hand it’s a good sign for the oil industry giant that they’ve made public noises about paying for the spill clean-up.

“We are taking full responsibility for the spill and we will clean it up, and where people can present legitimate claims for damages we will honor them. We are going to be very, very aggressive in all of that,” Tony Hayward told Reuters…

If BP whole-heartedly, sincerely and adequately commits itself to the clean-up, and we (fingers crossed) avoid irreparable environmental and economic damage, over the long-term, the company could wind up reaping some good press out of this horrific event.

However there are already two troubling storylines percolating that could hinder any “happy PR” for the company.

The first evidence of a bad trend comes from the Associated Press, reporting on BP’s lack of preparedness:

BP’s 52-page exploration plan for the Deepwater Horizon well, filed with the federal Minerals Management Service, says repeatedly that it was “unlikely that an accidental surface or subsurface oil spill would occur from the proposed activities”

And while the company conceded that a spill would impact beaches, wildlife refuges and wilderness areas, it argued that “due to the distance to shore (48 miles) and the response capabilities that would be implemented, no significant adverse impacts are expected.”

The other troubling story comes via the TalkingPointsMemo blog, reporting on BP officials’ attempts to head-off legal claims by offering upfront cash to coastal residents of Alabama:

BP has been offering $5000 payments to residents of coastal Alabama areas, in exchange for essentially giving up their right to sue the oil giant over its deadly Gulf Coast spill, according to the state’s attorney general.

Catastrophic environmental destruction + Willfull ignorance + Cynical payola = Bad PR.

There’s more than one deep hole that BP will find itself digging out from.

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