By: Cole Buergi, Senior Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

I’m jokingly wondering if BP read my last blog about BP’s Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward’s public relations gaffes and that is why he was replaced on Tuesday with BP executive Robert Dudley.

Dudley, with a proven track record for handling difficult situations for BP, was first selected in early June to take the lead in the gulf oil cleanup, removing Hayward as the public face for BP regarding the spill. On Tuesday, Dudley became the first American to lead the British company.

What’s not a laughing matter is the combined sigh of relief among Americans who seem to feel more comfortable with Dudley’s leadership. Almost immediately after Dudley’s transition into the lead role for the Gulf cleanup, there was a noticeable change in how things were being done. Dudley got the team on track with messaging and began airing and printing ads on what BP promises to do to make things right.

Equally important was that the ads feature BP employees, all of whom live and work in the Gulf states and share messages that are believable. Coupled with that is the gushing pipeline has been capped, the leak has stopped and plans are to completely “kill” the well in the next few weeks.

Can Dudley take the credit for capping the well and stopping the leak? No. That would have eventually happened no matter who was leading the effort. What he gets credit for is showing compassion, a deep concern and understanding of the situation and, most importantly, offering hope that things can and will get better.

On another more positive note, reports today from the Gulf are that oil is dispersing and deteriorating faster than expected thanks to weather and water conditions. Although it will take years to fully realize the spill’s impact, all Americans are closely watching with concern and tempered hope that it is far less than feared and that everyone in the Gulf region gets their “lives back.”

BP has a long way to go to even remotely begin rebuilding its reputation, but the first steps have been taken. Under Dudley’s leadership, there appears to be a glimmer of hope.

What do you think? Can BP ever recover from this disaster?