BP CEO Stonewalls Congress in Misguided Crisis PR Move, Says Dobson

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PR Expert Brian Dobson of DobsonPR.com said, “BP's CEO Hayward repeatedly indicated he was unqualified, uninformed, unaware and unprepared to answer Congressional panel questions about the oil spill disaster for which BP is responsible. That’s a weak PR tactic for the CEO of a global company in crisis.”

BP's CEO Hayward repeatedly indicated he was unqualified, uninformed, unaware and unprepared to answer Congressional panel questions about the oil spill disaster for which BP is responsible. That’s a weak PR tactic for the CEO of a global company in crisis and set him up as the potential fall guy should the oil giant need to show changes to assuage public concern

“BP CEO Tony Hayward stonewalling of a Congressional panel investigating causes of the disastrous BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico reflects a misguided tactic to minimize litigation exposure rather than astute crisis PR focused on shifting public opinion about BP’s intention to correct damage it caused America’s ecology and economy,” said public relations expert Brian Dobson of Dobson Communications.

“In Crisis PR, saving a world-class brand trumps what may occur in a courtroom. Hayward foolishly reinforced an image of BP as misleading when the Congressional panel will eventually get his answers in writing or they will emerge during investigations. Hayward approached a 21st Century crisis with 20th Century avoidance,” added Dobson, who runs DobsonPR.com and previously headed PR at a Fortune 50, then called American Brands, where he served on the crisis committee.

“A CEO sets the tone and reflects management’s ability to handle crisis. BP’s CEO has been viewed as callous for glibly calling the BP oil spill tiny in a big ocean and saying he wants the spill to stop so he can get his life back when 11 men died on BP’s rig,” said Dobson, a former journalist at Dow Jones and Reuters who has been interviewed on CNN and other news media about BP’s image problems.

Facing grueling questioning before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation, major Congressional power Henry Waxman criticized BP’s Hayward for a lack of cooperation.

"BP's CEO Hayward repeatedly indicated he was unqualified, uninformed, unaware and unprepared to answer Congressional panel questions about the oil spill disaster for which BP is responsible. That’s a weak PR tactic for the CEO of a global company in crisis and set him up as the potential fall guy should the oil giant need to show changes to assuage public concern,” said Dobson, a brand building and crisis PR expert who recently discussed BP’s mismanaged image on RT TV’s The Alyona Show.

“BP’s CEO Hayward missed an opportunity to carry forward initiatives of BP’s Chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, who was perceived as more conciliatory in meeting President Barrack Obama’s call for BP to set up an independent $20 billion fund to pay claims connected with the massive oil spill. Hayward missed a chance to pivot public opinion by evidencing a cooperative manner in Congressional testimony,” said Dobson.

“The Crisis-Arc™ in the case is predictable for a major company, such as BP, Goldman Sachs or Toyota, yet some global companies seem continually unprepared for crises. While BP, Goldman Sachs and Toyota can rebuild public reputations and regain popular support by being open, transparent and responsive, it will take years to regain lost ground and in the case of BP how America’s Gulf Coast and residents heal will determine the length of its image difficulties,” he added.

Before forming Dobson Communications, Brian Dobson headed PR at a Fortune 50 global consumer products company and was a member of its Crisis Committee. He entered PR at the New York Stock Exchange during a crisis, after being a journalist at the AP-DJ newswire of Dow Jones and at Reuters, where he wrote the daily stock market commentary.

Based in Ridgefield, Connecticut, and online at http://www.DobsonPR.com, Dobson Communications has managed a variety of brand building PR campaigns in several sectors, and has handled PR in major crises for 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. For information contact Barbara Green at 203-894-9240 or Barbara_Green (at) DobsonPR (dot) com.    

© Brian Dobson 2010

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