BP’s Oil Cam PR Fiasco

BP’s decision to stream video live from the sea floor to show how they are managing the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may have seemed a good idea at the time: evidence that the company is technically committed to capping their spill. If all had gone well with the capping of the well, the video streaming might have been a PR coup. Instead the video has operated almost like a trojan horse undermining all their PR campaigns.

Problem 1: you only need to look at the oil “gushing” out to know that you are watching more than 5000 gallons a day entering the ocean. Combined with BP’s earlier refusal to allow researchers near the well, this live evidence has provided America with reality TV show from the ocean floor. The fact that the gusher is brown and therefore mud rather than oil does not change perception that BP has failed. The visual perception of failure allied with the increasingly rabid and hysterical utterances from the White House is stoking  the embers of a PR conflagration. For President Obama, approval ratings plummeting, this is all about allocating blame to BP and keeping it as far away from the White House as possible.

Not all Americans are responding in the same way. There is within the USA, an increasing sense that this disaster is a logical outcome of a situation where the country has an increasingly desperate need for oil leading to more and more marginal drilling.  This constituency does not necessarily hold BP to blame, but realises that all oil companies are behaving the same way. The cost of oil is enviromental disaster.

For BP (“Beyond Petroleum) the spill is increasingly uncontained, to the extent that analysts are talking of break up and takeover. In this torrid arena, CEO Hayward looks increasingly out of his depth, not helped by the disastrously absent chairman. At first BP seemed too relaxed about the spill, now they are looking incompetent. Their failure to marshall the facts of the argument and the failure of USA CEO to be able to clarify the events before the explosion made BP look incompetent. BP also failed to understand the full political context of their spill and the likely response from Obama.

As mud, oil and gas gush from the well, perhaps it has been failure in a smaller way. Why have BP not taken the opportunity to shape the news agenda by providing some interpretation of the live cam. Some text explanation of what viewers are seeing would have been technically simple and ensured that they debate could be swayed their way. Typically, BP have failed to set the agenda.

  • Mark Lamphere

    I worked as a ruffneck for 9 years, wildcat drilling on a triple. We had 8 lost time accidents and death in 30 days. The rigs are dangerous, this was an accident, do you think those 11 men wanted to die?? I don’t think you have a clue. What isn’t cool is BP didn’t have equipment on the shore ready for this type of accident. There are 4799 more just like this one. What would happen if 10 rigs had problems. BP wasn’t ready for anything and should have better containment equipment.

  • Mark Lamphere

    I worked as a ruffneck for 9 years, wildcat drilling on a triple. We had 8 lost time accidents and death in 30 days. The rigs are dangerous, this was an accident, do you think those 11 men wanted to die?? I don’t think you have a clue. What isn’t cool is BP didn’t have equipment on the shore ready for this type of accident. There are 4799 more just like this one. What would happen if 10 rigs had problems. BP wasn’t ready for anything and should have better containment equipment.

  • Frank MacGill

    How much would it have cost to have 200 miles of boom material stored in locations across the GOM coast, as a percentage of one month’s BP profit? Not much, probably less than the logo redesign. The company failed to consider any such contingency at all. As a consequence, the CEO will lose his job.

    Obama isn’t the man to calm the fishermen. He’s a Harvard academic and he already has a demanding day job. Why hasn’t he sent Biden down to camp out there for the summer in a baseball cap? Biden is the horse for this course.

    More curiouser still, why did Obama promise the moon to the people of the Gulf a week ago??! It is a case of too much, too late. Overpromised and underdelivered is the most likely outcome. When he says he is “enraged” he digs a deeper hole. It is as if he is preaching impotence and frustration, when what the people need is a message of courage and endurance. Martin Luther King would have handled this differently.

  • Frank MacGill

    How much would it have cost to have 200 miles of boom material stored in locations across the GOM coast, as a percentage of one month’s BP profit? Not much, probably less than the logo redesign. The company failed to consider any such contingency at all. As a consequence, the CEO will lose his job.

    Obama isn’t the man to calm the fishermen. He’s a Harvard academic and he already has a demanding day job. Why hasn’t he sent Biden down to camp out there for the summer in a baseball cap? Biden is the horse for this course.

    More curiouser still, why did Obama promise the moon to the people of the Gulf a week ago??! It is a case of too much, too late. Overpromised and underdelivered is the most likely outcome. When he says he is “enraged” he digs a deeper hole. It is as if he is preaching impotence and frustration, when what the people need is a message of courage and endurance. Martin Luther King would have handled this differently.

  • Frank MacGill

    How much would it have cost to have 200 miles of boom material stored in locations across the GOM coast, as a percentage of one month’s BP profit? Not much, probably less than the logo redesign. The company failed to consider any such contingency at all. As a consequence, the CEO will lose his job.

    Obama isn’t the man to calm the fishermen. He’s a Harvard academic and he already has a demanding day job. Why hasn’t he sent Biden down to camp out there for the summer in a baseball cap? Biden is the horse for this course.

    More curiouser still, why did Obama promise the moon to the people of the Gulf a week ago??! It is a case of too much, too late. Overpromised and underdelivered is the most likely outcome. When he says he is “enraged” he digs a deeper hole. It is as if he is preaching impotence and frustration, when what the people need is a message of courage and endurance. Martin Luther King would have handled this differently.

  • Paul Heckbert

    PR can only do so much. It’s exaggeration to call this webcam a “PR fiasco”. There’s no way that any PR could turn a huge environmental disaster like this into anything positive or even neutral for BP. The reality is that BP was unprepared for this spill. Louisianans have coined new names for the company: “Big Polluter” and “Bull Poop”.

    You write that the White House has been “rabid and hysterical” about the spill. How is that? Is it rabid to pause new deep water drilling, to increase scrutiny of the Minerals Management Service, to hold BP accountable? What did you want Obama to do, kiss BP’s feet?

  • Paul Heckbert

    PR can only do so much. It’s exaggeration to call this webcam a “PR fiasco”. There’s no way that any PR could turn a huge environmental disaster like this into anything positive or even neutral for BP. The reality is that BP was unprepared for this spill. Louisianans have coined new names for the company: “Big Polluter” and “Bull Poop”.

    You write that the White House has been “rabid and hysterical” about the spill. How is that? Is it rabid to pause new deep water drilling, to increase scrutiny of the Minerals Management Service, to hold BP accountable? What did you want Obama to do, kiss BP’s feet?

  • Paul Heckbert

    PR can only do so much. It’s exaggeration to call this webcam a “PR fiasco”. There’s no way that any PR could turn a huge environmental disaster like this into anything positive or even neutral for BP. The reality is that BP was unprepared for this spill. Louisianans have coined new names for the company: “Big Polluter” and “Bull Poop”.

    You write that the White House has been “rabid and hysterical” about the spill. How is that? Is it rabid to pause new deep water drilling, to increase scrutiny of the Minerals Management Service, to hold BP accountable? What did you want Obama to do, kiss BP’s feet?

  • Haywood

    This gives more detail on how fubar BP was leading up to the blowout.
    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6493

  • Haywood

    This gives more detail on how fubar BP was leading up to the blowout.
    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6493

  • Haywood

    This gives more detail on how fubar BP was leading up to the blowout.
    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6493

  • I can’t believe these morons at BP. They have got to be the worst, irreponsible people living the way they are dealing with this oil spill.

  • I can’t believe these morons at BP. They have got to be the worst, irreponsible people living the way they are dealing with this oil spill.

  • I can’t believe these morons at BP. They have got to be the worst, irreponsible people living the way they are dealing with this oil spill.

  • Obama needs to make sure those responsible at both BP and MMS are taken care of. If not, he will have lost all respect from me. Step up Obama or you’re out in 4 for sure.

  • Obama needs to make sure those responsible at both BP and MMS are taken care of. If not, he will have lost all respect from me. Step up Obama or you’re out in 4 for sure.

  • Obama needs to make sure those responsible at both BP and MMS are taken care of. If not, he will have lost all respect from me. Step up Obama or you’re out in 4 for sure.

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  • Jakob

    It seems like there is finally some good news with the spill. The Houston Chronicle reports, U.S. ships were being outfitted earlier this month with four pairs of skimming booms airlifted from the Netherlands and should be deployed within days.” Could this be the turning point?

  • Jakob

    It seems like there is finally some good news with the spill. The Houston Chronicle reports, U.S. ships were being outfitted earlier this month with four pairs of skimming booms airlifted from the Netherlands and should be deployed within days.” Could this be the turning point?

  • It seems like there is finally some good news with the spill. The Houston Chronicle reports, U.S. ships were being outfitted earlier this month with four pairs of skimming booms airlifted from the Netherlands and should be deployed within days.” Could this be the turning point?

  • I guess I will have to move out of the coast because of negligence of a company. Sad period in my life…

  • I guess I will have to move out of the coast because of negligence of a company. Sad period in my life…

  • JohnBrown

    Hi,The sad truth is it is not anyones fault for the accident. Who knows what happen or why? I guess we are all to blame. See no evil Hear no evil. It is easy to think everything is ok when we look out at the Ocean. To me to go down 5000 feet just to get to the Ocean floor is questionable. If something breaks How do you fix it? We can place blame later,We need to fix the problem And clean up the MESS. And make Laws and inspections so this never happens again. If other wells are just as deep, Are they being looked at? How old are the WELL HEADS? Are backup systems being installed? I think with my small brain, That we need to have a hands on approach to any Oil Well,If a Person cannot work on it, do not build it.

  • Hi,The sad truth is it is not anyones fault for the accident. Who knows what happen or why? I guess we are all to blame. See no evil Hear no evil. It is easy to think everything is ok when we look out at the Ocean. To me to go down 5000 feet just to get to the Ocean floor is questionable. If something breaks How do you fix it? We can place blame later,We need to fix the problem And clean up the MESS. And make Laws and inspections so this never happens again. If other wells are just as deep, Are they being looked at? How old are the WELL HEADS? Are backup systems being installed? I think with my small brain, That we need to have a hands on approach to any Oil Well,If a Person cannot work on it, do not build it.

  • JohnBrown

    John Brown, What If? Would it be possible to put a giant Balloon over the well head, A large hole on the bottom with weights around the outer edges. This would completely cover the well head, And hold it on the ocean bottom. As the oil goes in attach a Hose to the top of the balloon to suck out the oil? I hope I do not appear to look to stupid for thinking of this.

  • John Brown, What If? Would it be possible to put a giant Balloon over the well head, A large hole on the bottom with weights around the outer edges. This would completely cover the well head, And hold it on the ocean bottom. As the oil goes in attach a Hose to the top of the balloon to suck out the oil? I hope I do not appear to look to stupid for thinking of this.