BP + PR = 0
Posted on Jun 9, 2010 by Valerie Touchstone
It really never ceases to amaze me how often major companies completely train wreck when it comes to PR and crisis management. The list of colossal missteps, gaffes and blunders grows monthly – and includes everything from a fundamental lack of understanding of PR (or unwillingness to listen to people who do understand) to more modern mistakes involving social media.
The one front and center now is BP – wow. Yet another case study of “what not to do” for public relations students in universities around the world. When I first heard about the oil rig explosion, my PR brain actually made note to follow the crisis management…because I thought it would be stellar. My expectation came from the fact I have been impressed with their messaging, positioning and marketing to date.
I am going to assume that the PR team at BP is knowledgeable; so, that leaves two options: either the PR people don’t have a seat at the big table (big mistake) decision makers don’t listen to the PR team (bigger mistake). I suppose another option is that a PR team doesn’t exist. Given that a PR student, at least one studying at my alma maters Henry W. Grady School of Journalism at UGA or SI Newhouse at Syracuse (!), could handle crisis PR far better than BP, a non-existent team is my bet.
So, for a quick review:
(1) Your company’s PR person/team should have a seat at the management table – and the CEO’s ear.
(2) A well-thought out crisis communications plan – that management embraces – should be ready to roll, before a crisis strikes.
(3) Two-way communications should be practiced all of the time – it helps when you have to deliver bad news; people will believe what you have to say.
(4) Even when the truth hurts, tell the truth. In the past, it was possible to get away with untrue or half-true statements – in today’s interconnected world, it is only a matter of time before the truth is found out. Far better that people hear it from the source first.
And, for my final words of wisdom today: if everyone “at the table” in your company doesn’t fully embrace points one, two, three and four – run in the opposite direction.
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