I’ve been thinking about the BP oil spill — in part because I can’t escape its omnipresence in the news. In fact, this story is so ubiquitous even I was asked by CNNMoney.com to give a quote about the new apology ad. If you’re interested, you can read my off-the-cuff response here.
Spending $50 million on an apology ad makes no sense to me. Tiger Woods called a press conference. That’s what every scandal-stained politician does, too. This story is enormous. BP would have gotten coverage — without the expense that seems so inappropriate right now. In fact, BP should stop spending money on advertising now.
So what would a good communications strategy be?
1. Certainly an apology is in order — and probably should have happened much sooner.
2. Communicate the plan you have.
3. Communicate that, while you’re optimistic, you have a plan B if plan A doesn’t work.
4. Talk about your timeline.
This approach would help build confidence. Instead of giving your entire communication strategy to the news organizations, BP would take more control.
But, the difficult thing for communicators to deal with is that nothing is going to help this PR disaster until the leak is stopped and the spill is cleaned up.