Tuesday 9 November 2010

BP: $30 Billion Blowout

Blogging has been non existent light today since first thing, as I have been working on various corporate messages and communication plans for a client. These are the kind of standard documents and procedures that any company should have in place as a matter of course.

Tonight the BBC are showing a Money Programme special which has been promised as a warts and all inside account of the BP oil spill. It will be fascinating to see if the BP communications team get blamed, exonerated or even mentioned at all.

PR experts (this one included) have been very critical of the way BP handled the crisis and communicated with the world but particularly the American public. To my mind they allowed themselves to be manoeuvred far too easily by the various layers of US government. BP should have done all it could to communicate with its key audiences - even if this meant circumnavigating the authorities. They were also far too quick to play down the significance of the spill: despite the fact their assessments subsequently were proven to be accurate.

A communications team - whether in business or government - will only be a success if they have built up a strong relationship with the people at the very top of that organisation. The management must trust the advice they are given and act on it. In these situations often speed is crucial.

I believe, ultimately, that was why BP failed after Deepwater Horizon blew up - the management team had no relationship with their communications team. That was why Tony Hayward failed to connect with BP's key audience. It will be interesting to see if I am right.

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