Oil Spills and Finger Pointing

By: Scott Stein, Senior Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

As gallons of oil continue to spill into the Gulf, a new spill started recently on Capitol Hill as BP, Transocean and Halliburton went before Congress. As I was thinking about this Blog, I was actually going to say some nice things about BP and how they’ve kept their focus on working to stop the leak and do what is needed to clean up the mess. Then I heard some of the finger pointing that has started to happen.

Certainly BP’s brand was strong and mostly positive before the explosion, leak and environmental disaster at the oil rig in the Gulf. Since then, it’s certainly appeared to the public that BP was keeping its focus where it should be, stopping the leak and planning for the cleanup. Even if those efforts were taking far too long, BP didn’t seem to be more concerned about efforts to its reputation and public perception.

But listening to a bit of what was said during the May 11th hearing certainly raises questions. BP points its finger at Transocean which operates the rig…Transocean says it’s Halliburton’s fault since they built parts of the structure. Halliburton, which, of course, already has some issues with its reputation, says don’t blame us.

While the hearings on Capitol Hill started on May 11th, BP’s top lobbyist started his work well ahead of that saying that they have had to prepare for the Congressional hearing but remain focused on stopping the spill and cleaning up the environmental disaster. One has to wonder if that message was lost on day one of the hearings with fingers being pointed in so many different directions.

Time will tell how BP comes out of this mess. From a PR perspective, little can be gained by talking heads at this point. The real positive PR will have to come when there are constructive steps in dealing with this disaster and everyone involved begins doing the right thing in cleaning up this environmental mess.

What do you think of the mess in the Gulf? Any PR advice for BP? We’re interested in your thoughts.