BP-Beyond PR

It takes years to build a reputation, and a minute to destroy one. BP is seeing how this works first hand. BP_logo

The company just launched an image campaign featuring a TV ad with the CEO talking about how he’ll make it right. He’s well coached and the spot touches on all the stock points – acknowledging the problem, taking responsibility and promising to help. All great – just 50 days too late.

The company is reacting to the shelling it has been taking – and that immediately outs their media efforts as PR – which is why even the President is criticizing the commercials. If BP had been first and lead, the campaign would have been seen as an effort at transparency and reaching out – instead, it’s probably a waste of time.

Reputation management in a case the scale of the BP disaster is probably just about impossible in today’s media environment, but communication professionals will give it the old college try anyway – what else can they do?

Answer: Plan for this kind of a thing and have the OK from the board and the CEO in advance – easier said than done. When the you-know-what hits the fan, executives tend to start choking up, and solid communications plans can go right down the drain.

We’ll read about the company’s PR gaffs, and of course the “how we did it” accounts in our favorite PR magazines – but the net effect of this thing is that BP is just going to have to take a beating (well deserved) and build its reputation over time, with a decade of community service in the Gulf.

It’s not spin, it’s not a TV commercial – it’s building relationships with those you have harmed and putting in the time and money to fix it.