So, if this was your job, what would you do?
BP had a small leak on Sunday in it Prudhoe Bay pipeline, but by Tuesday, they enacted an all-out shutdown to repair a reported 16-miles of pipeline due to unexpected and severe corrosion.
It is early days in this crisis situation for BP, but it doesn’t look good.
Amid allegations of a spotty safety record, negligent and widespread pipe corrosion, and the intense interest of politicians (loosing $6.4 million a day in tax revenue tends to get their attention), BP has a big task ahead of it – financially, technically and in reputation management.
And the story has legs. There are so many angles to cover. The robot “pigs” that check the pipe for corrosion but aren’t completely trustworthy, the money that is being lost, financial markets, gasoline prices, and the sheer visual impact of the clean-up effort itself.
Just a few years ago (2000), British Petroleum underwent a branding campaign to change it’s name to BP, meaning Beyond Petroleum. In the BP case study, written by Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide about the campaign, the name change was meant to “Position BP as a new type of global energy company that confronts such difficult issues as the conflict between energy and environmental needs and takes actions beyond what is expected of an oil company.” It won two PRWeek Campaign of the Year awards in 2001.
And just a few weeks ago, John Browne, chief executive of BP, was asked about the company’s image and its competitors and said, “It's not a matter of competition, it's a matter of different character.”
Now we will see if its new image will hold up under the pressure. It’s time for a strong voice (Browne) to stand up at BP and get out its message in an authoritative but thoughtful manner. BP has set up a crisis communication website to communicate with stakeholders (no feedback mechanism as of yet).
It lists the company’s priorities as:
• Assure safety of our people and the integrity of our operating infrastructure
• Minimize the impact to the environment and finish cleaning up the FS-2 oil transit line spill.
• Work in cooperation with State and Federal Agencies on our plan to shut down Prudhoe Bay in a safe, orderly and systematic way.
• Work in cooperation with State and Federal Agencies to restore production as quickly as we can safely do so.
Now you tell me: If you were chief public affairs/relations council for BP right now, what would you advise?