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May 7, 2010
Ominous PR Tides for BP

Todd Defren, of Shift Communications, is beginning to look seriously at the PR implications -- beyond a huge black eye -- of the Gulf oil spill for British Petroleum. On his PRSquared blog, Defren wonders whether BP "can ever recover from the damage being done to its brand."

Certainly, the company's every action should have a recovery end in view, yet Defren sees some troubling counter signs -- "two troubling story lines" -- that could hinder BP's eventual rebound.

First, it can be seen as complacent regarding the likelihood of a spill at the mile-deep Deepwater Horizon well. Defren notes that BP's exploration plan for the well, filed with the federal Minerals Management Service, says repeatedly it was "unlikely that an accidental surface or subsurface oil spill would occur from the proposed activities."

The company added that "due to the distance to shore (48 miles) and the response capabilities that would be implemented, no significant adverse impacts are expected."

One wonders what response capabilities would be readily at hand if a spill was considered unlikely.

Next, Defren notes, according to the TalkingPoints Memo blog, BP is attempting to "head-off legal claims by offering upfront cash to coastal residents of Alabama."

"BP," says Talking Points Memo, "has been offering $5000 payments to residents of coastal Alabama areas, in exchange for essentially giving up their right to sue the oil giant over its deadly Gulf Coast spill, according to the state's attorney general."

Defren ponders: "Catastrophic envronmental destruction + Willfull ignorance + Cynical payola = Bad PR."

Doesn't it? We'll see.  


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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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