BP CEO’s Gaffes Reflect Crisis PR Fiasco & Culture of Complacency, says Dobson

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PR expert Brian Dobson of DobsonPR.com said, “In Crisis PR you have to be on your game within the first two hours, yet after two months into its massive oil spill BP’s management seems oblivious to public perception."

BP’s public relations during its massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been a Crisis PR fiasco typified by CEO Tony Hayward’s continual gaffes, low-balling oil spill estimates and stonewalling Congress, resulting in further damage to BP’s reputation and brand

“BP’s public relations during its massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been a Crisis PR fiasco typified by CEO Tony Hayward’s continual gaffes, low-balling oil spill estimates and stonewalling Congress, resulting in further damage to BP’s reputation and brand,” said public relations expert Brian Dobson of Dobson Communications, online at DobsonPR.com.

“The Crisis-Arc™ is predictable for a major company, yet BP seems out of touch with the realities of what crisis brings,” said Dobson, a former journalist at Dow Jones and Reuters who has been interviewed on CNN News and other news media about BP’s image problems.

“In Crisis PR you have to be on your game within the first two hours, yet after two months into its massive oil spill BP’s management seems oblivious to public perception, indicating a culture of complacency borne of assured revenue flows that oil provides due to relentless global demand,” added Dobson, who ran PR at two public companies, including a Fortune 50, then named American Brands, where he was Assistant to the Chairman and on the global crisis committee.

“It seems BP did not name Hayward CEO because of leadership ability. In the midst of BP’s crisis he antagonized America’s citizens, politicians and President Obama with such undiplomatic gaffes as calling the largest oil spill tiny, insinuating Americans will file illegitimate claims, carping he wants his life back without referring to 11 workers losing theirs and then attending a UK yacht race in clear waters while US fishing boats remained moored to docks due to polluted Gulf waters,” said Dobson, who discussed BP's image on The Alyona Show of RT TV, broadcast in 100 countries.

“The personal gaffes of CEO Hayward likely reflect a company where pointing to weakness in top management would get you fired, and protecting your job may be more a priority than protecting your brand,” noted Dobson, who has helped build internationally successful brands in a variety of product sectors.

“At the outset of crisis, facts present power. To avoid providing accurate information merely delays its revelation in investigations and media reporting, and assures loss of credibility when the company needs it most. BP lost its credibility by low-balling oil spill estimates at 1,000 barrels a day, then 5,000 and eventually 60,000, but most Americans now disregard anything the company says,” said Dobson, whose firm has managed several Crisis PR projects for global, national and regional companies.

He added, “In Congressional hearings Hayward showed a lack of understanding about Washington. Side-stepping questions from powerful Congressional leaders Henry Waxman and John Dingle, he reinforced an image of BP as misleading. He has to provide the committee with answers in writing to questions he avoided, making his tact seem naïve.”

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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