By Noah Graff
When is it best to take responsibility for a screw-up, even when you think it’s not entirely your fault?
Recently NPR’s “Morning Edition” interviewed Patrick Kinney of Gaffney Bennet Public Relations to get his thoughts on BP’s current public response to the Gulf oil spill. Kinney had worked for Ogilvy Public Relations, which helped BP rebrand itself as “Beyond Petroleum” 10 years ago.
At the beginning of the oil spill crisis BP’s PR team elected to deny responsibility for the disaster. However, later the company flip-flopped and admitted it was at fault. Kinney attributes BP’s first response to its lawyers who were in the “hide from liability” mindset. Whether the company is entirely responsible for the crisis or only partially, it realized that it was best to take responsibility for the mess, because the world wouldn’t rest until someone took the heat. Denying responsibility would only make the public’s resentment for the “evil, polluting, greedy oil company” escalate even more.
Another method the company is trying in order to defuse the public’s resentment is keeping people up to date on the status of the crisis using Twitter, Facebook and video updates on its Web site. Kinney says that along with using these information outlets, it’s important for BP to tell the public about the questions it doesn’t have the answers for and tell people why that is.
Of course there is the distinct possibility that BP is attempting to make the public think it is being transparent when in actuality it’s all big façade so the company can discreetly withhold the really dirty stuff. I wouldn’t put that tactic past them.
Kinney says that that BP’s CEO, Tony Hayward, will likely lose his job from the crisis. He’s a convenient scapegoat and his own public response that, “the amount of oil spewing is tiny in comparison to the amount of water in the Gulf,” is not what BP needs coming from the face of the company. Kinney says that in crises such as this one, 11 out 12 CEOs lose their jobs.
Question: Have you ever taken responsibility for a screw up that wasn’t totally your fault?
Click here To listen to the NPR Story