BP unveiled a new multi million dollar PR campaign this past week. I first saw the commercial while watching the morning news and watched with great interest. First as a US Citizen I wanted to know what this European based company was doing to clean up the worst natural disaster in our country’s history. I have family that lives in that part of the country and I felt a bit snarky when BP’s CEO Tony Hayward said they would take care of all the problems and he’s sorry that it happened.
Even President Obama said that BP should be spending more on the clean up than on a PR campaign. However would his opinion be different if he was a PR person? I mean we keep telling everyone how this new social media channel allows us to have a conversation and that companies need to communicate to us and not just sell us goods and services? Recent case studies I’ve read about companies doing it wrong continually point out that some companies react and stop the communication in fear of inflaming a difficult situation or crisis communication.
No doubt that the effects of this spill will continue to affect the Gulf region for years to come. It’s a terrible tragedy that in a perfect world would never have happened. But it did and BP as well as those affected have to deal with the aftermath. BP could not continue to run its typical brand advertising in the face of what happened. That would have been a big slap in the face to Gulf coast residents and others that care about our environment and livelihood of our fellow world citizens.
In writing this article I visited the BP YouTube channel to find the link to the ad. While there I noticed that BP has many videos produced in the past several weeks addressing the Gulf spill across a variety of topics. The videos range from updates on the progress of trying to cap the pipe, technical videos on the processes and how they work to environmental awareness and animal release information.
From a PR and social media perspective BP seems to be doing the right thing by engaging and communicating to the public. The ad shows some sincerity in apologizing for the disaster and promises to clean it up at no taxpayer expense. Of course we know that’s not true as the multitude of federal, state and local government workers that are dealing with the problems that have arisen due to the spill. However it appears that BP is following the conventional wisdom of owning up to its responsibilities and taking ownership and communicating that to its audiences. Of course time will tell how well they actually do just that.
What do you think of the recent BP PR campaign? Is it the right step at the right time or just damage control?