BP is Right to Apologize, Obama is Wrong to Criticize

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It’s no surprise that last week’s off-putting remarks by BP top gun Tony Hayward, who ‘wanted his life back,’ prompted a backlash of hostility among Louisiana residents and businesses. The embattled CEO immediately apologized saying he was “appalled” at his crass statements, and was especially sorry to the families of the 11 men who lost their lives in the disaster.

Hayward’s glib comments are in contrast to company ads featuring him apologizing for the disaster and taking full responsibility for cleaning up the gulf spill. Regardless of any messaging snafu, BP is right to launch TV ads in an effort to communicate to the public.

Advertising is expensive. Any national campaign, especially TV, easily can cost tens of millions of dollars. Is BP trying to manage its image with the ads? Certainly, that’s a no-brainer. BP however needs to communicate during this crisis. They need to correspond effectively and regularly, and that includes running ads on television. What would the reaction be if BP didn’t run the ads? Critics certainly would jump on the bandwagon saying the company is unresponsive, uncaring and indifferent.

Those character associations of BP may still be at the heart of many constituencies, but the company is doing its job, right, wrong or indifferent. No doubt any tactic aimed at restoring BP’s brand makes for negative headlines against the company. President Obama was quoted saying the company should not waste millions of dollars to “manage their image in the course of this disaster.” He was partly right to some degree, but should have been more thoughtful in his comments, although it may be very difficult in this media frenzied environment. On the other hand, BP paying $10.5 billion in dividends this quarter, well, that’s an entirely different story.

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