From a crisis PR standpoint, BP’s CEO Tony Hayward has done about everything wrong as one possibly can do in the past 55 days of this horrific disaster.
Essentially, at this writing, he has no credibility with the American people. And so I wonder in the wisdom of BP’s advertising companies running a spot with him, direct to camera, talking in his British monotone, showing almost no varying emotion. It just doesn’t work, mates.
David Olive of the Canadian publication, The Star, compares Hayward to the Bush Administration’s Michael “Brownie” Brown who was over FEMA when Katrina hit New Orleans, and to Baghdad Bob, Saddam’s propaganda minister who insisted Iraq would never fall to the Americans when our tanks were rolling into the heart of downtown Baghdad.
I noticed a couple of times this week we began to see the COO of BP taking media on tours and not Hayward. I don’t know, given BP’s nightmarish handling of this disaster, if that was by accident, a scheduling conflict or what, but even so, it’s likely too little, way too late.
As Olive puts it, “It’s hard to say which cardinal rules in the crisis-management playbook Hayward hasn’t broken. The public face of the world’s fourth-largest commercial enterprise has engaged in the blame game; consistently trumpeted the looming success of well-plugging gambits destined to fail; low-balled estimates of damage to the Gulf of Mexico and its shoreline; mounted a cover-up; and indulged in self-pity.”
He’s right. He looks as concerned about this as a local TV newscaster going from a shooting story, car accident to a feature story on helping the homeless. All monotone. No emotions. Just let me have my life back. It’s not working BP. It’s just not working.
But our own government’s handling of this mess has been bad as well. Admiral Thad Allen was on Face the Nation this morning saying that the estimates of how much oil is leaking into the Gulf have been done by government officials and not BP. I don’t care what anyone says, but now that they’ve cut off that whatever it was, it looks like to me even more oil is flowing out than before.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, and Florida’s whack Gov. Charlie Christ, all were on Face the Nation this a.m., too. Gov. Barbour, who is a friend of mine and the namesake of one of my twin daughters, (Reagan and Haley) as well as my friend, Gov. Riley, both said the news media has added to the hyping of the matter making it sound like, as Haley put it, “We’re ankle deep in oil along all our beaches down here.” The point is that it’s bad in places, but it’s not 100 percent everywhere. You can still go to the coast and have a good time.
It’s hard to hear about the beaches of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach to have black/brown oil/tar washing up onto that pristine white sand. My late boss, Gov. Guy Hunt used to talk with pride as we traveled the state and nation and talk about “the prettiest beaches as you’ve seen anywhere in the world, right here in Alabama.”
Gov. Riley said if you want to do a good thing to help, head to South Alabama, aka “LA” (Lower Alabama) and check into a condo, go eat at a restaurant–My fav is Lambert’s Cafe in Foley–and you’ll have a good time if you go there. The tourism industry helps keep the economies of these Gulf states going. Please go support them.
The point of all this is BP has proven it can’t put a stop to the flow of oil coming out of the Gulf at least until August. But they can stop something else from spewing nonsense, obviously half-hearted words of empathy, inaccurate data, blame and personal interest by putting a sock in what comes out of Tony Hayward’s mouth. Maybe he needs to be like our president and not allowed to say anything that someone else hasn’t written on a telepromter.
Maybe Tony Hayward should go to a few places like Lambert’s Cafe, a bar or two in the French Quarter, the Florbama, the blessing of what’s left of the fleet in Bayou La Batre, and into one of the casino boats or two in Gulfport or Biloxi, put on some jeans, a ball cap, and an airbrushed “wife-beater/muscle t-shirt” from Panama City and walk around for a bit and get to know the people who he’s affecting the most. Maybe some time in the South would help him get away from his British hardline stance and develop something in him most people like to call a personality. Otherwise, his chances of relating to the people he’s trying to help are like the oil rig that started this whole thing, sitting at the bottom of the ocean.
Gov. Haley Barbour