Oil: A dirty business…


One hundred days of disaster have gone by and it seems BP is having more difficulty cleaning up
Bp5 their image than the actual oil spill. Catastrophe unfolded, the company has been ridiculed for its lack of preparedness as well as its reactions to the crisis. Controversy from their past has resurfaced and issues of corporate malpractice are being investigated.

There’s heated debate involving a new structure to be built on Park Place, in lower Manhattan; an incumbent administration err in judgment regarding Shirley Sherrod and her impending lawsuit; and, local railroad agencies claim of nearly a 96 percent punctuality rate (talk about manipulating statistics).  Yet still, I’ve felt compelled to comment on torrents of negative press circling oil giant, BP.

The un-natural disaster in the Gulf fiscally dwarfs any product recall or corporate crisis I can imagine, and its detrimental effects will be long lasting. Litigation may take decades as federal claims have been filed in twelve states.  The tourism and fishing industries, workers killed or injured on the rig and, investors believing it was BP’s mistakes that resulted in the sharp drop in stock price, are some of those seeking compensation.  The ecological impact has yet to be fully determined and best-case scenario, the oil’s effects will subside, ecology will return and prosper.  BP will surely attract press coverage related to this mess for years to come.

BP’s tarnished image, despite having survived past monetary penalties related to their reckless decision-making, now seems to me close to irreparable.  The public’s view of BP is negative at best and the company continues to make poor choices when attempting to appeal to the public.  The bombardment of negative publicity has been self-inflicted, due in fact to neglectful safety tactics and careless maintenance practice.  Clearly they prioritize finance over humanity. 

What really has me shocked is their questionable business associations used in order to substantiate growth. US Senators wish to investigate a role BP may have had in lobbying Scotland for the release of the only convicted Lockerbie bombing suspect, in relation to a $900 million dollar oil exploration contract with Libya. While their involvement has not yet been understood, the story has been dubbed the ‘Oil for Terrorists’ scandal. BP has become a major player in the global oil game and it’s apparent deceit has been their forte. 

In 2006, a BP subsidiary accepted liability for their role supporting paramilitaries to protect a crucial pipeline from insurgents. The company was ordered to pay millions in reparations to Columbian farmers for human rights issues stemming from the agreement. 

More recently, BP had been suspected of photo cropping an image of personnel hard at work in a crisis center.  The company admitted to this shortly after accusation.

BP has also offset the damages of the spill against its taxes, saving nearly $10 billion dollars.  While viewed as a strategic business maneuver the average citizen will misread the intentions.

Can the oil conglomerate expect changes in fortune having banished Tony Hayward to Russia, and placing at the reigns a Gulf Coast native?  Will Tony “get his life back” in Siberia? Can criminal liability charges be doled out for gross incompetence and negligence?  Should the company be held accountable for nuisances related to shoddy business practice?

One thing is certain; the ineptitude exhibited throughout the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and BP’s involvement in other debacles, have become case studies of how not to connect with the public.

5 thoughts on “Oil: A dirty business…

  1. Nice comment, Cory. The calamity’s been great fodder for the communications industry. I’ll be sure to check out your post, thanks.

  2. BP is certainly a case study in failed crisis communications and management. Its lack of quick response and its inability to provide any sort of strategic plan/direction have disenchanted the people. Also, Hayward just didn’t seem to “get it,” passing the blame or failing to take accountability. While BP did do some things right (social media, for one), the amount of shortcomings far exceeds the list of pros. Time will tell if BP is able to recover and resurface, but this may be a disaster too large to overcome. Check out my blog post on the BP disaster: http://www.searchperspective.com/2010/06/22/bp-crisis-communications-management/

  3. Thank You, Alex. At the least, I believe the company will need to change itself fundamentally, instilling checks and balances to ensure safety and efficiency. Also, a legitimate proactive effort to be environmentally conscious may help – instead of just the ‘greener’ logo.

  4. Great post. No question BP made an awful matter worse, but do you think can do anything now to better manage their reputation?