BP Hopes Dome Will Contain Oil Spill, But BP Needs Better CrisisPR to Contain Image Damage, Says Dobson

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CrisisPR expert Brian Dobson says the Crisis-Arc™ in a major development is predicable yet BP was flat footed and slow to act at the outset of the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The company is devoting major attention to the spill on its BP website and has its CEO Tony Haywood and other BP executives conducting media interviews to put face of concern on the company, but the tide of public opinion shifted more quickly that BP acted

British Petroleum turned to a cement dome to contain its gushing oil leak deep in the Gulf of Mexico, but seemed slow to act in putting an effective communications dome around its rupturing image and reputation,” said Crisis PR expert Brian Dobson, of Dobson Communications.

“The Crisis-Arc™ in a major development is predicable yet BP was flat footed and slow to act at the outset to effectively communicate its actions, control developments and contain the media blitz,” according to Dobson.

“The company is devoting major attention to the spill on its BP website and has its CEO Tony Haywood and other BP executives conducting media interviews to put face of concern on the company, but the tide of public opinion shifted more quickly that BP acted,” said the founder of Dobson Communications, based in Ridgefield, Connecticut.

“Like so many companies caught in crisis, BP was reactive rather than proactive in the early days of the oil spill in the Gulf,” said the public relations expert who headed PR at a Fortune 50 and had been a news reporter covering the oil business.

“BP’s CEO Tony Haywood and other BP executives are eventually conducting media interviews to put face of concern on the company, but the tide of public opinion shifted more quickly that BP acted,” said Dobson.

“There was a lack of effective Crisis preparedness at BP. A main focus of Crisis PR plans is the anticipation of problems and laying out of action sequences that would kick into place at the outset of such problems,” according to the Crisis PR executive.

“Crisis begets crisis. You can’t only handle the one most evident. You have to anticipate and act on the series of crises that follow any major negative development to a world class company,” said Dobson, the Crisis PR and brand building executive at DobsonPR.com.

"As seen in our proprietary Dobson Crisis-Arc™, crises have common elements, but each is unique. Basic principles, flexibility and common sense are important in managing a crisis," said Dobson.

“At the outset, as its leased oil rig was ablaze and sinking BP failed to promptly communicate the scope of predictable damage. Escalating media criticism, government agency and Presidential calls for action occurred and BP is now chasing the story it should have been leading,” he added

Based on his working experience in Crisis Communications, Dobson noted, “Public perception is vital in at the outset of crisis and triggers political pressure, Congressional hearings and review of environmental susceptibility as the Crisis-Arc™ runs its course.”

“Once BP management responds consistently, the massive financial resources at its disposable can begin to shift public opinion. But, BP will have to spend a great deal of time and wealth to maneuver out of this mess,” he added.

“When an oil company in the Gulf of Mexico or any waters is drilling one mile deep, it should anticipate a massive leak at the wellhead, and be ready to act. The U.S. Coast Guard sprang into action and the public may consider BP an inept custodian of the precious resource below American waters,” said the Crisis PR expert.

“As in crises in a variety of areas, the company in the midst of the damage attempts to point responsibility elsewhere, as BP is doing relative to Transocean Ltd., the world's largest offshore oil driller, but that is not an effective PR strategy since global public opinion is focused on BP and can be settled by lawyers later,” said the Crisis PR expert.

"Like BP's news oriented website focusing on the Gulf oil spill, Transocean is also providing continual updates on efforts underway as both companies respond to public outcry and media interest," said Dobson.

DobsonPR.com has handled major crises for a variety of companies, including a major Japanese pharmaceutical and nutritional products company, Japan’s lead supplier of blood, a major US food company and other clients in crisis situation, in addition to marketing and brand building PR. Importantly, DobsonPR has prepared firms for Crisis and in the process helped identify potential problems that were addressed.

Before forming Dobson Communications, online at http://www.DobsonPR.com, Dobson headed PR at a Fortune 50 company, the former American Brands, and was a member of the Crisis Committee of the global firm that had businesses ranging from tobacco and insurance to alcoholic beverages and food products. Prior to entering PR at the New York Stock Exchange, Dobson was a news reporter, first as a Petroleum News Editor at the Journal of Commerce, then for the AP-DJ newswire of Dow Jones and Reuters Financial Newswire, where he wrote the daily stock market commentary. Media contact Barbara Green (at) DobsonPR (dot) com.

© Brian Dobson 2010

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