For one glorious moment I thought that BP had got it right.
I was drinking a cappuccino in Café Nero before going to my first meeting of the day. I turned the page of City AM and there it was, a full page advertisement from BP entitled “One year later. Our commitment continues.”
On the face of it the advert was great. It looked as though BP were being proactive and that they had a great story to tell. The reality was somewhat different. It seems that they have learnt nothing.
At one superficial level the advert was convincing. It told you how much money they had thrown at the problem and how many people, vessels and aircraft had been involved. It talked about the $20 billion they are investing to rebuild the economy.
In other words it did all the things I had criticised them for last year. The advert is a great piece of corporate propaganda planned for the day of their AGM. It talks about money, organisation, equipment (all the things big corporates love) . . . . but not people.
It was not a great piece of reputation recovery. As Nick Hindle, McDonald’s UK vice-president communications, said in a recent PR Week article, ‘Advertising is not the answer. You cannot advertise your way out of operational problems’.
The people and communities affected were not mentioned once. The closest the advert got to an apology was to say ‘This was a tragedy that should not have happened’.
Later in the day I sat on a train to go home and opened the Evening Standard. There it was, a headline that read ‘Gulf fishermen take on BP over lost livelihoods. Again, on the evening TV news, there it was. Protesters had come all the way from the Gulf of Mexico to the UK to make their point at the BP Annual General Meeting.
Nick Hindle goes on to say ‘If there is a fundamental disconnect between what you say and what your customers can see every day, you undermine the trust.’
Byron Encalade, president of the Louisiana Oystermen Association is reported in the Evening Standard as saying “Our fishing grounds have been depleted, our oysters are dead and we’re not receiving the funds we need to sustain ourselves. We completely shut down, we lost everything after the spill. We had good faith (BP) were going to make our communities whole, but they’ve gone down the wrong road.”
In just a few passionate words one man destroyed hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of big company corporate advertising.
Even worse, the protesters were refused a meeting with BP boss Bob Dudley and that says it all.
BP is a corporate giant that has been brought to its knees because, in the world of communications it just doesn’t get it. It’s about people, stupid!Read More