British Petroleum, BP, is truly the poster child for risk management and how NOT to handle an event.
This seems, based on incidents at other leading British organizations, to be the norm.
BP, according to a New York Times piece at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/10/us/10access.html not only by all accounts failed to do "due diligence" to avoid or at least mitigate the Goo in the Gulf caused by an explosion on a drilling rig - an explosion that, lest we forget, cost the lives of 11 people - it is exacerbating matters by its heavy-handed efforts at public relations.
The PR is so bad, I suspect Israel is working for BP; the Israel government is expert at creating bad PR from good opportunities.
Worse, the US government, in the form of the Homeland Security Department, FAA, and the Coast Guard command, appears to be in bed with BP in an effort to strangle news from the area.
I would expect heavy-handed handling of the media in the UK, but for the US to cave to a business, especially a foreign-owned and controlled business, shames me.
Honesty in Blogging: I came to risk management from journalism via PR, marketing, and tech pubs, both here and overseas.
While I can agree that reporter over-flights need to be controlled, albeit not prohibited, I have a hard time accepting that a BP staffer apparently determines who can fly over the spill and who cannot (reporters).
According to the NYT,
"A pilot wanted to take a photographer from The Times-Picayune of New Orleans to snap photographs of the oil slicks blackening the water. The response from a BP contractor who answered the phone late last month at the command center was swift and absolute: Permission denied.
"A spokeswoman for the agency (FAA), Laura J. Brown, said the flight restrictions are necessary to prevent civilian air traffic from interfering with aircraft assisting the response effort.
"Ms. Brown also said the Coast Guard-FAA command center that turned away a Southern Seaplane was enforcing the essential-flights-only policy in place at the time; and she said the BP contractor who answered the phone was there because the FAA operations center is in one of BP’s buildings. "
But who is controlling access? It seems like the FAA is taking its orders from BP.
Still, reporters are in good company.
The NYT reports that
"Last week, Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, tried to bring a small group of journalists with him on a trip he was taking through the gulf on a Coast Guard vessel. Mr. Nelson’s office said the Coast Guard agreed to accommodate the reporters and camera operators. But at about 10 p.m. on the evening before the trip, someone from the Department of Homeland Security’s legislative affairs office called the senator’s office to tell them that no journalists would be allowed. "
"Mr. Nelson has asked the Homeland Security secretary, Janet Napolitano, for an official explanation, the senator’s office said.
"Capt. Ron LaBrec, a Coast Guard spokesman, said that about a week into the cleanup response, the Coast Guard started enforcing a policy that prohibits news media from accompanying candidates for public office on visits to government facilities, 'to help manage the large number of requests for media embeds and visits by elected officials'.”
Public relations is all about image, perception.
I suppose even BP could consider itself in "good company" as this PR disaster unfolds on the human and environmental disaster.
When the fox answers the phone in the chicken coop, one suspects collusion with the farmer. It LOOKS like Homeland Security, the FAA, and the Coast Guard are working for BP. It doesn't have to be true, but given the NYT article, that's the impression the reader almost has to take away.
Learning from mistakes is a good thing, especially when the mistake is someone else's.
Any practitioner who fails to present the BP fiasco in all its variations - loss of life, oil in the waters, PR faux pas - to the client, internal or external, is failing to fulfill the role of risk management and doing the client a disservice.
Management that ignores what is happening to BP's image, its stock price, and the shrinking bottom line - the financial impact can be as much as US$17 billion (capped by Federal statute), is doing the organization a disservice and should be replaced.
I suppose I should say "Thank you" to British Petroleum for presenting this excellent example of how NOT to practice risk management. Still, I would have preferred to have this as a theoretical exercise than a real disaster (11 dead equals a disaster in my book).
John Glenn, MBCI
Enterprise Risk Management practitioner
Hollywood - Fort Lauderdale Florida