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Yes, Professor Jay Rosen (jayrosen.posterous.com) is right, we the public would be better served if the commentary by politicians and “experts” on political talk shows were fact-checked on a timely basis. Here is my comment on his blog site: “Rosen is right, there should be fact-checking of these political talk shows, and it should be done independently, and I’d subscribe to any blogger or news organization that does it well. Real journalists deal in facts, and based on facts, render opinions.”
From a Reuters report: “What makes the mistakes even worse, is that BP should have been well placed to mount a world-class crisis PR effort.
“The firm had almost unlimited resources. Its chairman was a media-savvy former telecoms CEO. And its head of public relations, Andrew Gowers, was a former editor of the Financial Times, and one-time Reuters reporter, with recent experience of crisis management: Gowers headed Lehman Brothers PR team during its collapse, although the rapidity and breadth of the banking meltdown was such that no amount of PR could have saved the bank.
“Yet the oil giant had a key shortcoming.
“BP’s British CEO had never held a position in the United States, its Swedish chairman had limited U.S. experience, and Gowers’ only stint working in the United States was his few months with Lehman.
“Hayward exacerbated his lack of U.S. savvy by choosing another Briton, Alan Parker, head of the UK’s largest financial PR agency, Brunswick, as his external PR adviser. It wasn’t until late May before the company appointed a heavy-hitting U.S. PR representative — Dick Cheney’s former spokeswoman, Anne Kolton.
“The lack of local knowledge hurt BP in those first few weeks. U.S. executives say that it is difficult for European executives, especially those who haven’t spent a long time working in the United States, to understand the combatative political landscape there.
“In Europe, the attitude would be much more, ‘the company is the only one who can solve the problem, so what do we need to do to help the company to get it sorted?'” said Patrick Dunleavy, a professor of political science at the London School of Economics.
“The company didn’t adequately gauge how much backlash there would be and how quickly it would be … that was a really bad piece of risk management,” he added.”
As former GE CEO Jack Welsh said on Morning Joe today, the President should have formed an oil industry task force early on, set them up in the Executive Office Bldg. in continuous meetings with his govt. staff to solve the Gulf problems. Joe Scarborough suggested that the White House made a political calculation early on not to “own” the issue, and judging by the continuing focus on BP’s bumbling, they might have been right politically. But it’s not helping solve the Gulf problem, and a unified command is still needed. Meanwhile, the BP CEO is seen yachting and the President golfing, while “Rome burns”. The actions are wrong, the optics are wrong, and the problem remains unsolved.
Read the new Economist’s editorial on how the U.S., Obama in particular — is risking being too tough on BP. They even compare him to Russia’s Putin in kicking around private enterprise. Come on. Yes, there is risk that Obama and company, including Congress, are pandering a bit to public outrage about BP’s apparent criminal negligence in it’s lack of providing Gulf drilling safety measures and its empty contingency planning. Considering they are politicians, whose very employment is contingent on such pandering, that’s what they do. They have to be careful they don’t overstep the law in their condemnation of BP, as the Economist points out clearly. And yes, BP has ceded to demands for setting aside cash for reparations, withholding a dividend, and even sending their CEO home on furlow (so he could watch his yacht, Bob, compete off the Isle of Wight).
And is Obama and company ganging up on British pensioners and other BP shareholders who are being financially penalized to pay for all this? Sure, but they made what has turned out to be a bad investment. Americans already know about those. But is this excessive, and posing a risk to the status of private enterprise in American culture, as The Economist theorizes? Hardly. Apparently no one at BP has yet been fired over the spill, at least according to Hayward before Congress. What kind of accountability and Board responsibility is that? The spill goes on and on, and at higher levels than BP long acknowledged. Many Americans are already out of jobs. And the wildlife that have paid the ultimate price already will never be known.
The economic loss and trauma to humanity of this needless tragedy, and the repercussions that will go on beyond our lifetimes is vast and unknown in its scope and breadth. Are Obama and company risking our economy or our souls over handling this issue? I don’t think so. They should be careful, but what happens to BP, it’s reputation, it’s so-called leadership (and their boats) is of little concern to me.
McDonald’s and Shrek: How to Run a Recall
By SEAN GREGORY Thursday, Jun. 10, 2010
Whether you’re a fan of McDonald’s or curse the company for the effect of its food on your waistline, you can’t deny that the fast-food haven has improved its image over the years. McDonald’s now offers healthier menu options, like fruit and salad, and innovations like its McCafé coffee brand have been a hit with customers. Further, the company has always connected with kids. So when news hit that its Shrek-themed drinking glasses contained potentially dangerous levels of cadmium, a carcinogen that can cause kidney ailments, the results could have been severe. There goes McDonald’s again, creating a health hazard. And worse, they could be poisoning the kids who adore Ronald McDonald, Grimace and, by extension, those salty french fries.
So McDonald’s issued a swift recall of the offending glasses. And analysts are giving the company high marks for its response to a potential disaster. “The takeaway from all this is that they were very proactive,” says Jack Russo, an equity research analyst who covers McDonald’s for Edward Jones, an investment banking and advisory firm based in St. Louis, Mo. “You have to be prepared for the worst.” Russo was struck by the difference between the competent reaction of one multibillion-dollar corporation, McDonald’s, and that of another quite prominent one that’s been in the news lately, BP (he noted that the severity of their problems was quite different). “It was pretty brilliant,” says Sophie Ann Terrisse, CEO of STC Associates, a brand-management firm, of the McDonald’s response. “They came clean right away, and not only did they do what customers expected, they did more.”
To wit: for every consumer who returns one of the 7.5 million Shrek glasses the company says it sold, McDonald’s is offering a rare premium above the purchase price: a $3 refund for an item that cost $2.49 as a stand-alone purchase, and $1.99 with a purchase of food. “You’ve got to give them credit for turning the recall into a value proposition,” says Terrisse. It helps, of course, that McDonald’s can afford such generosity. Sales are strong; the company made $1.09 billion in the first quarter of 2010. Any financial hit from the company’s refund will be worth the positive vibe it creates with consumers.
The whole incident does carry some long-term risks. Although the Shrek glasses weren’t connected to the McDonald’s Happy Meal, which comes with a toy, many concerned parents might not make that distinction. “People are so buried with information, so on the go, they could just think Happy Meals toys got contaminated,” says Russo. Those kids’ meals are a cash cow for the chain — Russo notes that fries and drinks are high-profit items, and the incremental cost of adding a cheap toy to the mix is negligible. And since the toy is a huge reason that kids demand, and parents buy, the Happy Meal, any damage to its reputation could creep into the bottom line.
Still, Russo doesn’t see this bleak scenario playing out. “Their cachet with kids will not be destroyed,” he predicts. After all, what does little Johnny care about a recall? He’ll wail until he gets his toy, leaving his parents no choice but to purchase the Happy Meal. No chemical can quell his wrath. And no cadmium will slow down the McDonald’s momentum.
Our culture does a better job of managing contingencies in space than we do on our seabed. Technology must catch up with exploration. The immediate message is conservation – let’s conserve our natural resources and habitat. The omnipotence of protecting water is prominent in this equation. To protect water, we must be careful with the land and what lies above and beneath it. If there’s ever a time to see that the message is wind, solar and water power, now is it. While we desperately need to put a finger in the dyke of this spill, the lesson is that we need new strategies and practices and technologies and economics that will enable us to protect and conserve the entire dyke, for ours and future generation. As I said on a public relations industry LinkedIn site today, that’s a challenge and opportunity where public relations can make an incredible difference. The clarion call should be: it’s time to move Beyond Petroleum. Thanks for the push, BP.