Communication Matters

Analysis, critique, and advice on today's hot news topics from the perspective of a Strategic PR Consultant.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT SPOKESPERSON–BP’s positive first step to repairing its damaged reputation.

Posted by mrsmart on July 30, 2010

It has been nearly two weeks since BP successfully capped the damaged oil well, stopping the oil leak into the Gulf of Mexico. It is time the company turned its attention to repairing its damaged reputation. For BP, that starts with choosing the right spokesperson, an essential part of a successful crisis response strategy. In addition to ethos and pathos, my advice to clients when choosing a spokesperson is to choose someone preferably a native, when possible, with whom the audience can identify.

In choosing Bob Dudley, a native Mississippian as the new CEO and the new face of BP in America, BP may have struck gold, no pun intended. Dudley brings instant credibility. Having grown up in Mississippi, he has a vested interest in cleaning his own backyard. It also helps that millions of gallons are no longer actively gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. When Dudley speaks, hopefully with a little Southern drawl, the audience may be more inclined to believe him and give the company a second look.

It is true Tony Hayward, the man Dudley is replacing, was the CEO, as such the highest ranked individual needed to speak on behalf of the company. But, the image of Hayward with British accent as the face on television of a British company responsible for the worst environmental disaster in the US was simply wrong tactically. Fairly or unfairly, it may have actually served as catalyst for the damage to BP’s company reputation in the oil spill disaster.

With results Mr. Dudley has promised, in terms of tourists returning to the beaches, fewer and fewer tar balls found on the beaches and compensations satisfactorily paid to all adversely affected, BP will recover from its battered image in time. The company may actually come out from this crisis with a better, more valuable brand.

Emmanuel A. Smart is Strategic PR Consultant specializing in image, reputation and crisis management.

Got an ongoing crisis and need immediate help managing it? Or need crisis management planning seminar or workshop? Contact Mr. Smart. Call 713-834-4138 or visit


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