Let’s Stop Whining About BP and Focus on What Matters—Tomorrow
The company is putting its money and energy where its mouth is to resolve the situation . . . so now we should punish them by driving by their gas stations? This is mindless meanness.
How good does a good company have to be to get encouragement even after having done something truly awful?
Yes, it is fair to estimate that BP does carry at least a generation or more of heavy duty penance, justification, restitution, apology, and a relentless, compassionate focus on restoration of people's lives, and fostering the recovery of the living systems it has damaged.
Structuring the communications strategy for these efforts and the management compliance it will take to carry out what's needed is a rather stunning discussion we should all be having.
BP is actually behaving pretty much like most of us would advise. Where they behaved badly was on the operational side about which PR practitioners know very little and can offer very little substantive advice. We can carp about what they did or focus on what has to be done. The operational tasks are enormous, as are the communications tasks.
If communicators want to have credibility in the C-Suite, we need to get over the slogans and drive-by advice about yesterday, get serious about tomorrow, and participate in the strategic solution finding process. BP’s got the communicating about today piece down pretty well . . . now they need some satisfactory technical solution options.
What’s left for us to talk about? Maybe some suggestions about how BP will be accountable for the damage caused and for actually permanently resolving the current situation. Or maybe we could talk about how this situation can be used as a platform to further enhance operational safety and environmental protection.
Americans seems more comfortable than ever with drilling offshore. BP has a natural role in leading the discussion of how best to proceed. These are all new areas where communications strategy and practice will play powerful roles. We have yet to hear how these issues will be addressed.
BP’s greatest operational and communication challenges lie ahead. We need to talk about these more than just what got screwed up yesterday.