Jane Grant & Mike Fruchter critique BP’s response to Gulf of Mexico disaster

In the June 18, 2010 edition of the South Florida Business Journal – by Jeff Zbar

Imagine you are the CEO of the equivalent of a Fortune 50 multinational corporation suffering a major disaster of its own making. How would you handle public relations and crisis communications?

For executives with BP PLC, the answer is “not very well,” according to local publicists asked to critique the company’s response.

Since the Deepwater Horizon disaster on April 20, BP has been reactionary and delayed in its response to events along the Gulf of Mexico, executives said. CEO Tony Hayward appeared “detached, dishonest and disrespectful” in addressing the catastrophe, said Jane Grant, president of Pierson Grant Public Relations in Fort Lauderdale.

The problem may stem from the conflicted roles of counsel. PR counsel advises management to be forthcoming and honest, while attorneys caution against statements accepting blame that may be used by in criminal and civil actions, Grant said. Her grade: F.

On the digital front, the company has been responsive – if slow, said Mike Fruchter, director of digital strategy with High Impact Digital, a division of Pierson Grant. The disaster response website BP set up is adequate, he said, with up-to-date information, press releases, claims, response and agency contact information. A month after the spill, the company launched its social media campaign, he said, and reportedly has been spending $10,000 a day in Google AdWords.

“This is the type of transparency that BP should have demonstrated since day one – not after the fact. That’s a quick, effective and expensive way for them to get the sponsored positions on Google,” he said. “That’s a step in the right direction. For the most part, it seems orderly, transparent and efficient at getting information out to the public.”

BP’s Twitter presence has been “a mockery,” Fruchter said. BP’s official Twitter account has some 14,000 followers. A BP parody account has topped 150,000 followers. His overall grade: C-.

Source: Bizjournals.com