BP’s spin machine kicked up another gear yesterday as the company started airing adverts on American television showing the company’s embattled Tony Hayward apologising to those affected by the spill.
“We will get this done. We will get this right,” says a contrite looking Haywood at the end.
The adverts come on a crucial day for BP – Hayward will address City analysts this afternoon, hoping to give them good news over the dividend.
He will also be hoping that his engineers will be able to give him good news over the latest effort to contain the spill.
The adverts – and continued use of gaffe-prone Tony Hayward – suggest a more aggressive PR campaign by the oil company, that has become the butt of jokes on late night comedy shows.
For the last couple of weeks BP has enlisted the help of the Brunswick Group, a public relations and crisis management firm, to deal with the accident.
BP has also recently hired a new head of media relations in the US, Anne Womack Kolton, who worked at Brunswick and is a former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney during George W.Bush’s administration.
The appointment has already been met with disdain by some: “It defies belief that BP could be this inept,” says a Democratic staffer on Capitol Hill.
The appointment is nothing if not ironic. As the FT pointed out this week:
“On Wednesday the Center for American Progress, Washington’s leading liberal think-tank, branded the BP oil spill as “Cheney’s Katrina” in a paper that argued the disaster was the culmination of the cosy ties between regulators and industry that stem back to Mr Cheney’s controversial 2001 “energy task force”, which established the Bush administration’s very friendly stance towards the oil industry.”
So BP appoints someone linked to the administration that could be in part responsible for the disaster.
On the surface that is another great home goal.
But let’s not forget how influential Brunswick is. It is a leading global financial PR company whose power-base is in London. At first the choice of Brunswick as a crisis management company for BP does not make that much sense. It is a company that specialises in financial PR not crisis management.
But the more you think about it the more it does make sense, especially as BP tries to reassure worried investors. Because if investors lose faith the company is doomed. And there is no one better to reassure the city than Alan Parker, the founder and senior partner of Brunswick.
Parker is one of the most influential spin-doctors in the City, just the person for BP. He is seen as the dean of modern financial PR and one of the most well-connected spin doctors. If you want one man to represent you in the City of London it is Parker.
And those connections go to the heart of the new British coalition government. Parker is close friends with both Britain’s new Prime Minister, David Cameron and the new foreign secretary William Hague.
Cameron and his wife Samantha attended Parker’s wedding a couple of years ago, as guests of his wife – Jane Hardman – who used to be “linked” with William Hague.
Also a couple of years ago Cameron had pride of place at Parker’s 50th Birthday party sitting next to the financial PR guru. Cameron’s loyal PA, Kate Fall, is also said to be very close to Parker’s new wife.
So is Brunswick the reason why the British government has been so quiet in its condemnation of what is happening in the Gulf. The silence is almost deafening…