I was having lunch with an old friend from radio days recently and she asked me what I would do if I were in charge of public relations for BP. She was the fifth person to pose that question to me and I’m sure it’s a question that many of my colleagues in the industry have heard as well.
I’ve also got a feeling if you ask ten PR people that question, you’ll get ten different answers. Maybe there will be similarities in the responses, but everyone has their own way of attacking a problem such as that faced by BP.
My answer? Well, it’s actually not too complicated right now. As of this writing, the well has only been partially capped and oil is still gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, though not at the rate it had been.
With that in mind, were I counseling BP and asked for my top-line thinking, I would have them say the following: “Our utmost concern is to find the quickest and most effective way to seal the well and completely stop the flow of oil. Equally important is to assure that an effective clean up is executed as quickly as possible and that the eco systems are restored just as quickly.
“From there we will do the work necessary to find out exactly what happened to cause the accident and take whatever measures are necessary to assure a similar problem does not occur in the future.”
I would stay away from trying to assign blame and I would stay away from trying to make excuses: “It’s an awful accident; we’re focused on fixing it and will worry about the other details when it’s appropriate to do so.”
As I said in the beginning of this piece, my colleagues in the PR industry would probably have another slant on this and that’s fine because I believe there are many right answers, but I would be confident offering this top-line counsel to BP.