Over the last few weeks we have all heard and read about the“bad PR” BP has had throughout theenvironmental crisis in the Gulf Coast. A litany of half-truths and the company’sfailure to provide complete information about the efforts to contain thelargest oil spill in U.S. history has destroyed BP’s reputation; rightfully so.So where does BP go from here? Will this crisis bring down the oil giant or cangood PR help turn the public’s opinion around?

Recently, I was asked by a friend what I would do if Irepresented BP right now and how good PR could help them. My response wassimple – the best PR in the world wouldn’t change BP’s reputation right now.Coming from a PR professional who strongly believes in the power of PR, Iimmediately saw the confused look on their face that I of all people would havethis opinion. I went on to explain what PR is (which I frequently find myselfdoing with friends and family) and what our industry can and cannot do. We arenot wizards, we can’t change the world and we most certainly cannot change whoa company is. Here are a few things PR can and can’t do.

PR Can:

  • Create impressions
  • Reinforce brand/shape reputation
  • Educate and inform
  • Support sales and marketing
  • Heighten visibility

PR Can’t:

  • Hide the truth
  • Mask reality
  • Deliver products
  • Solve credibility problems
  • Fix product, service or support issues

I say that the best PR in the world wouldn’t change BP’sreputation right now because until BP changes how it operates as a company,steps up and takes responsibility, and implements a strong plan to clean up theongoing oil spill, no PR will help them change their public image.

Can BP recover this corporate crisis? This excerpt from a HuffingtonPost article states it pretty well.

“Past corporate crises teach us that it might be too latefor BP to recover from the worst oil spill in U.S. history after initiallyplaying down the severity of it. But history also indicates that the companycould still bounce back if CEO Tony Hayward and his management team do theright things. Most companies contaminated by crisis recover, even if the stigmasticks.”

My advice to BP – stop worrying about your Googlesearch rankings and start figuring out how you are going to rectifythe biggest environmental disaster the U.S. has ever seen. When you figure thatout, then focus on improving your public image.

— Deana Goodrich