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BP’s PR Battle; CEO Says ‘It wasn’t our accident’


The thousands of employees who depend on Louisiana’s $3 billion fishing industry, which provides a third of the seafood consumed in the U.S., according to the Louisiana Seafood Marketing and Promotion Board, are likely not at all concerned with BP’s “image,” even while the company tries to save its brand after the massive oil spill in the Gulf Coast.

“This is an environmental disaster, this is not a public relations opportunity. A crisis is not an opportunity, it is a real problem. No matter what the company does for the foreseeable future, it will be declared to be mishandled,” crisis communications expert Eric Dezenhall told CNBC.

BP has considered a massive advertising campaign to sway opinion but decided against it. “In our view, the big glossy expressions of regret don’t have a lot of credibility,” BP spokesman Andrew Gowers told The New York Times.

Hill & Knowlton US Director of Risk Management and Crisis Communication Chris Gidez told PRNewser today that BP “is in an impossible position, with respect to managing the communications around this.”

“The rush to judgement on this is so enormous and so consuming that nobody wants to hear that this is a complex issue, with many dimensions,” he said.

What about BP CEO Tony Hayward‘s statement, “It wasn’t our accident, but we are absolutely responsible for the oil, for cleaning it up,” we asked.

“It doesn’t play well for the audiences that want to see someone go to the woodshed,” said Gidez.

Other PR executives have mentioned the irony in the situation, as BP has likely lost the entire value of a supposed $1 billion investment to re-brand the company as an alternative energy leader with the slogan “Beyond Petroleum.

The case study for that campaign is still listed on Ogilvy PR’s website. The agency no longer works with BP, a spokesperson confirmed to PRNewser.

BP is communicating through a recently launched website, and has also dispatched numerous executives and crisis managers to the Gulf Coast region.

After the jump, we’ve posted video of a testy exchange between a BP spokesperson and angry fishermen.


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