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There is no such thing as bad publicity...

...except your own obituary - according to the Irish author & dramatist Brendan Behan.

It might seem contradictory that any kind of success might follow from scandal: but scandal attracts attention, and this attention (whether gossip or bad press or any other kind) is sometimes the beginning of notoriety and/or other successes. Today, the often-used cynical phrase "no such thing as bad publicity" is indicative of the extent to which "success by scandal" is a part of modern culture.

BP used to be British Petroleum. Then it reinvented itself as Beyond Petroleum, extending the enterprise beyond black gold and becoming a major investor in new energy technologies.

All that counts for little now that the full extent of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe is becoming clear. BP is now the acronym for Bad Publicity.

No doubt, like in many crisis situations, within the first few frightening hours, BP's lawyers and public relations teams presented to BP's board their views on how the company should respond. It's clear that the lawyers won. "Shift the blame onto someone else." And that is indeed what BP did in the immediate aftermath of the story breaking. BP blamed their contractors.

So, the continued interest/disgust in BP, their actions and their disaster-prone crisis communications begs the question, when does bad publicity become detrimental?

The cost so far:
* BP has agreed to create a $20 billion fund to compensate those affected
* An alleged $50 million on a television advertising campaign
* About $1 billion off their brand value according to some studies
* More than $100 billion in market value
* Stock is worth less than half the $60 or so it was selling for on the day of the explosion
* Oh, and who knows what on-the ground cleanup and PR support is costing?

Three years after the cleanup operation has completed its work - what will be the perception of BP?

When will BP (or will it ever) break even from the costs occurred and the missed opportunity cost? We will probably never know.

Maybe there is such a thing as bad publicity or at least a cost for bad publicity.

How do you value bad publicity?



7 Tips for Tony Hayward to Survive the BP Oil Spill Congressional Hearing

If Tony Hayward, the CEO of BP, and ultimate person responsible for the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf wants to survive the present Congressional panel (heckler disruptions aside), he needs to not only get his message straight, but also get the delivery correct. Just like in any crisis communications situation he needs to work on:

1. Credibility – so that the panel has confidence in the message and believes in him.

2. Appropriate context – for the panel and ultimately the population of the US.

3. Right content – which is appropriate for the population of the US (and no doubt the viewers of the countless other international media following this event).

4. Clarity – so that the message is unequivocal.

5. Continuity – with previous and proposed BP marketing activity.

6. Simplicity – so that the message cannot be misunderstood or misinterpret.

7. Impact – so the media cover the story from BP's angle.

We also know from previous news reports that Mr Hayward is not a night owl (OK, I get he needs to be up early to do business back in Blighty). If I was him, I'd be spending a lot of long evenings anticipating what the panel (and journalist) are likely to ask and prepare my response and messaging in reply. I'd be spending my time exactly how a crisis communications spokes person should be preparing:

Anticipate – Prepare – Rehearse
Anticipate – Prepare – Rehearse
Anticipate – Prepare – Rehearse

While Tony may be one of the most hated people in America (has anyone run him head-to-head with Joran Van der Sloot?) if BP can get their crisis communications right, they could emerge a stronger and more profitable company.

What do you think?