The Problem with BP (Bad Press)

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Rather then learn from Exxon’s mistakes 21 years ago, BP has failed to heed the warnings of George Santayana. Anne Mulkern’s piece in the New York Times from Thursday highlights the similarities of the two disasters. While initially appearing competent in their crises communications and public relations approach, BP’s failure has reached epic proportions.

BP CEO Tony Hayward asks members of the media to step back as he walks along Fourchon Beach in Port Fourchon, La., Monday, May 24, 2010. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

BP CEO Tony Hayward is the modern day Joseph Hazelwood. He has become the face of this disaster. Hazelwood was later exonerated, but Hayward’s missteps and errors have become too numerous and too egregious to count.

Perhaps its time for Hayward to get “Fritzed” as in Fritz Henderson, former CEO of GM who was forced to resign after the automaker filed for bankruptcy. BP is operating under a veil of secrecy, misinformation, misdirection and avoidance that has unquestionably ruined the brand for the foreseeable future. When someone fails, at any level, his or her job is terminated. What benefit does the company have to continue with leadership that was 1) negligent to anticipate a disaster of this magnitude, 2) failed to have a contingency plan in place, 3) lied to the American public, 4) minimized the impact and size of the spill and 5) has no immediate plan to stifle the outpouring of oil into the gulf? And these are just a few of BP’s problems.

As a native Floridian (albeit the east coast of the state), I am outraged at the total lack of respect that BP and their CEO have shown those who will shoulder the burden of this spill in the years to come.

How can BP turn the tide? They can start with taking a miniscule cut of their over $240 billion in revenue from 2009 and prematurely help make those already in dire straits financially secure. BP can pull all 92,000 of their worldwide employees from their current positions and send them to the shores of the Gulf to assist in the massive cleanup. Its not as if they are hurting for cash. Perhaps Hayward and his fellow multi-million dollar executives at BP can offer up some of their obscene salaries and time to the clean up. His time would be better served helping save the local wildlife and ecosystem then going on the “Today” show and saying “there’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back.”

What a public relations coup that would be.