19 thoughts on “A Message From The Earth

  1. Becky says:

    What appalled (but didn’t surprise me in the least) was BP’s vehement and full-throated assertion as late as Tuesday (or was it Wednesday?) that the leak and explosion wasn’t as bad as they thought, going so far as to tell NPR (and any other outlet needing to fill air/space) that the exploded whatchamacallit on the ocean floor really wasn’t pouring kajillions of gallons of oil into pristine waters. As appalling (and again also not surprising) was the willingness of the media to buy the statement hook, line and sinker because, in their minds, the thingamajig had miraculously sealed itself. I get that there wasn’t a boardwalk into the Gulf so the press could mosey over the site of the aforementioned oopsey. But the aerial shots and satellite images available through Google Earth didn’t give anyone pause or at least cause someone to ask “Is it me, or does that blob of gooey black stuff look bigger than yesterday?”

    Thank heavens for flights of fancy on Gossamer wings and for communications folks who can get the press to buy a roundtrip ticket. I gotta get their media call list for the next time there’s some not-awesome news to share.

  2. Newt says:

    I can’t believe what I’m reading.

    You guys actually believe it is in BP’s interest to have an accident of this magnitude?

    Can we all agree that no one wants an oil spill – not environmentalists, not regulators, not oil company execs, not shareholders, not insurers, not employees? (Let’s leave plaintiffs’ attorneys and political hacks out of this for now.)

    Let me assure that BP wanted this accident as much as they want a sharp stick in the eye. You may hate the PR aspects of this incident (PR people love to sit around critiquing catastrophes all the time), but there is NO plausible argument that BP invited this accident. No more so than an airline invites an airplane crash.

    In fact, look up the definition of “accident.”

    The millions of dollars in lawsuit payouts, fines, PR agency fees and their associated distractions are NOT worth it to BP. No one can argue this.

    And the next time you drive down the highway, or jet off to a distant locale on behalf of a client, go ahead and curse the petroleum industry.

    1. PM says:

      Newt–Who said that BP wanted this accident? I read your post, and I couldn’t believe what I was reading because no one made a statement like the one you supposedly have so much trouble believing you read. Did you read it? Where? Or could you possibly have trouble believing it because you didn’t actually read it–maybe just another one of those red herrings?

  3. Bruce benidt says:

    Absolute failing grades in crisis communication for two Obama cabinet members. On Candy Crowley’s interview show on CNN this morning, Janet Napolitano, when asked if the administration is doing enough about the oil spill, started her answer with what way too many (idiotic unthinking) PR people counsel their clients to say: “We take this situation very seriously…” YOU THINK?!?!? If you didn’t take this seriously you should be fricking fired. That’s the minimum. What does it mean? Nada. “Well Candy, I got up this morning, inhaled…” SO?

    Then Crowley asked Salazar if, because there are many other wells in the Gulf that have blowout protectors like the one that failed BP, the administration had ordered all of them inspected. Salazar responded with practiced key messages — We’re doing everything we can to make sure BP lives up to its responsibility blahblahblah …. because, I suspect, some (idiotic unthinking) PR person had given him the standard PR bullshit advice of “Answer with the message you want to get across no matter the question.” Salazar just delivered his robotic key message. Didn’t answer. So, guess what, Crowley asked her very legitimate question again, same language. This time the question got through Salazar’s bullshit PR conditioning and he answered it — “Yes, as soon as this happened the president ordered all the other wells in the Gulf inspected.” Well why didn’t you say so in the first place, before you blew your and the administration’s credibility with a standard PR bullshit nonresponsive answer.

    As with so many things, orthodox PR advice is crap.

    How’s this for advice: Answer the damn question, right away, as if you were a real human.

    Jeesh. What’s it take?

  4. PM says:

    I think that this is a result of the idea of the “perpetual campaign”–everybody in the Administration behaves and acts as if they are already in a campaign for re-election, and every press interaction and question is treated as a potential bomb/trap. Thus, the emphasis is not on getting out the answers to questions, but rather on getting out the “message”(no matter its relation to the question), and avoiding a mistake. Providing the answer to the question requested comes in at a distant third.

    It is not just the fault of the administration (or even this administration), but rather a response to the political environment–people (even, gasp, journalists)–every comment will be pulled from its context and twisted, if possible, by SOMEONE (not necessarily the person asking the question) in order to score a sensationalistic point, to prove/justify an already held opinion.

    This is what happens when people are always playing defense–it is defensive PR.

    You are the PR expert–how do you get back to honest, straight forward communications without being taken advantage of? Would unilateral surrender work? Can one side, all by itself, change the nature of the game?

    1. How can we get past whatever circumstance compel people to practice this sort of “defensive PR”? Grow a pair. Honestly.

      Yes, frank and direct communication opens you (not *you*, PM, but “you” a politician or whoever’s afraid of just being sincere) up to potential twisting and distorting and attacking and whatnot. But for every person who hears and buys into that bullshit distortion you’ll find 10 whose respect and admiration you’ve just earned.

      Rinse and repeat until re-election is achieved.

      1. PM says:

        good point.

        again, it comes down to short term versus long term perspectives. your point absolutely makes sense in the longer term.

  5. Becky says:

    Agree with Bruce. No kidding they should take it seriously. Duuuhhhhh.

    NPR Morning Edition interviewed the CEO of BP this morning. Steve Inskeep’s first question was to the effect of “do you agree with President Obama that you are responsible and that you will pay the bill?” The CEO would’ve scored major PR (and credibility) points if he said “Yes. We are responsible. We will pay the bill.” After many talking-point sentences, he finally got around to “we will accept responsibility,” which isn’t as strong and doesn’t have as much street cred as “we are responsible.”

    They should take a lesson from Lee Iacoca (sp?) and his straight talk when he said sometime in the 80s that Chrysler’s faulty vehicles were the company’s fault, and he planned to fix it. Period. End of story.

    1. PM says:

      That’s a bit different than taking responsibility for, say, exploding gas tanks. Certain types of responsibility come with rather large price tags, and the CEO has a legal responsibility to shareholders that comes before responsibility to the public. We may not like it, but those are the facts of our legal system, and, as CEO, he is constrained by those facts.

      i guess the point I want to make is that while it might be refreshing for him to have answered Inskeep’s question with a “yes”, we are living in the real world here.

      1. Dennis Lang says:

        Interesting point PM, bringing to mind Union Carbide’s reaction to the Bhopal disaster where, as I recall the initial executive reponse was faceless and defensive, limiting liability to a crisis that did not occur without some prior warning. Here, BP was operating a state-of-the-art rig at a cost of $1 million a day that failed.

    2. Mike Kennedy says:

      Not that BP isn’t responsible, but the rig that exploded did not belong to BP, nor did the workers operating it — the way I understand it.

      The rig is owned and operated by a company called Transocean. BP owns the rights to drill in the specific area where this said rig was and had a lease on the rig until 2013 or so.

      Yes, these are fine points and BP is still in charge of the operations so it will have to pay and take responsibility.

      No one wants accidents to happen, but shit does happen.

      Machinery fails and it often isn’t anyone’s fault.

  6. Newt says:

    It’s obvious that everyone is looking for their pound of flesh from this catastrophe.

    I submit that the parties are doing everything in their power, 24/7 to make it right.

    Don’t get wrapped around the axle on PR. The plaintiffs’ attorneys will be deposing everyone who utters a word on camera. It makes no sense to confess anything when it will be used against you in court or in a political ad.

    Time to be rational.

  7. Newt says:

    This guy is a walking-talking-bumbling catastrophe, but half of America knew that before the election …

    Obama biggest recipient of BP cash

    By: Erika Lovley
    May 5, 2010 05:05 AM EDT

    While the BP oil geyser pumps millions of gallons of petroleum into the Gulf of Mexico, President Barack Obama and members of Congress may have to answer for the millions in campaign contributions they’ve taken from the oil and gas giant over the years.

    BP and its employees have given more than $3.5 million to federal candidates over the past 20 years, with the largest chunk of their money going to Obama, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Donations come from a mix of employees and the company’s political action committees — $2.89 million flowed to campaigns from BP-related PACs and about $638,000 came from individuals.

    On top of that, the oil giant has spent millions each year on lobbying — including $15.9 million last year alone — as it has tried to influence energy policy.

    During his time in the Senate and while running for president, Obama received a total of $77,051 from the oil giant and is the top recipient of BP PAC and individual money over the past 20 years, according to financial disclosure records.

  8. Ellen Mrja says:

    Newt: Obama’s take was a bombshell, wasn’t it? But the REAL story is how much BP has given to Congress. Here’s info from May 3rd post on political ticker:

    “The company spent almost $16 million lobbying Congress in 2009 and over $3.5 million so far this year, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics (CRP).

    BP employees also gave over $3 million in campaign contributions during the last decade, and almost $110,000 in 2010.

    Fifty-seven percent of BP’s contributions went to Republicans, while 43 percent went to Democrats.

    BP America President Lamar McKay has been asked to appear next week before the House Energy and Commerce Committee – whose members received the largest share of BP’s campaign contributions over the last two election cycles, CRP notes.”

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