Oil’s well that doesn’t end well

Posted on June 12, 2010


oil spill reuters  AP Photo-Charlie Riedel

Anyone who has read my recent blog post knows that I have been direct in criticizing BP’s management of the oil spill. The recent plummet of their stock price, down 40% at the time of this writing, clearly supports that point of view. Given my professional background in reputation management and marketing research, I called out a number of areas where BP could have managed the situation more effectively as opposed to the apathy and callous disposition thus far demonstrated to the American Public, fisherman, workers and grieving family members who have lost loved one when the rig caught fire.

BP’s actions, or lack thereof, have led to a social media campaign associated with a boycott of BP, its subsidiaries, and partners. Just yesterday, I drove past a BP station where surrounding stations were busy and no one was pumping gas at BP. The brand symbolizes negativity in an industry already perceived as unfavorable. BP corporate only has themselves to blame.

Upon becoming aware of a social media driven boycott, my initial reaction was to strongly embrace it. Due to the wisdom of friends and in reflecting on whom it would hurt, something to think about…the independent station owner would be taking the hit and probably be run out of business. The Independents are victims and are being hosed by BP. In essence, BP’s reckless actions are destroying the small business person who carries their brand name. Perhaps one way to demonstrate protest against BP while not totally hurting the Independent, is to buy non-oil related items from the Independent.

While engineers continue to try to plug the leak, there is a great deal more that BP could be doing. A number of action items would help the situation:

  • Immediately discontinue spending large amounts of money, to the tune of $50 million on a PR campaign. Redirect that money to the 11 families who lost loved ones on the exploding rig, fisherman in the region,  clean up and the independent dealers.
  • Given the many unemployed people in America who want to help in the clean up, hire and train them immediately. It does not matter if they are located in Philadelphia, Chicago, or on the west coast, people are upset about the situation and want to help. Relocate this wealth of talent and it would be a rare win-win in a bad situation.
  • Immediately terminate BP executive Tony Hayward of his duties. His lack of sensitivity and selfish perspective throughout the disaster has demonstrated that he is unfit to be part of this conversation. A sample of his comments include:

"There are no plumes

"I want my life back

"The likely impact of this spill disaster is likely to have been very very modest.

The crisis has enough issues surrounding it, therefore, having an executive minimizing its relevance is harmful. It is time to put people and environment ahead of insensitivity and the spread of misinformation. 

Although the aforementioned ideas will not undo the adverse affects that will be with us for some three generations (this finding is supported by many credible scientists), it would put the situation in a better place than where they are today. Instead of BP management constantly reminding us that the company has deep pockets and will make it right, actually apply those resources toward the largest ecological disaster of our lifetime. Talk is cheap, action yields results.

As Riki Ott, a renowned Toxicologist has expressed,

"BP and other oil companies under estimate spill and over estimate ability to clean it. They intentionally cover it up because liability is directly tied to the amount of spillage

Since this mess is not going away anytime soon, BP this is your opportunity to step up to a messy plate and start doing the right thing. With each view of the TV spot from a $50 million PR campaign, individuals become more angry.  Pull those ads immediately and direct resources where they need to be placed. Time is of essence.

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