Heroes and Goats
There's an old saying that today's hero is tomorrow's goat. Along those lines, BP appears intent on forfeiting whatever brownie points it may have garnered by so forthrightly accepting responsibility for the explosion at their Texas City, TX refinery. It seems that BP, through its PR/advertising agents, has been demanding what amounts to editorial control over news and commentary mentioning the company, from any media that carry their ads. According to Advertising Age (free registration required) BP's policy required that its ads be pulled from any outlet with adverse editorial commentary about BP. Apparently, this approach is nothing new in the advertising business, but for a company that has worked hard and spent a lot of money to spruce up its public image it is certainly counterproductive--aside from looking petty and mean-spirited.
Moreover, between voracious cable news channels, news websites, and the blogosphere, this is just the kind of tasty morsel guaranteed to get wider distribution than any negative editorial content might. Whoever in BP or its agency imagined that a policy like this wouldn't be "outed" in short order should consider a less mentally-challenging career. The oil industry doesn't inspire much trust on a good day; blunders like this just undermine its image further. In their editorial commentary on the matter yesterday, AdAge.com used the word "shame" to berate BP and other companies trying this tactic. The wagging finger is deserved, but no more so than a shaking head: what could BP have been thinking?