The oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and BP’s response, has the public and some PR executives riled up—one in particular who has gone up against another oil company giant in a similar environmental battle.
Karen Hinton, president of Washington D.C.-based Hinton Communications, has waged a long-term war with Chevron on behalf of environmental groups over the company’s alleged contamination of the Ecuadorian rainforest, resulting from its oil drilling there for more than three decades.
Needless to say, Hinton doesn’t mince words when it comes to BP’s PR response to the spill.
“BP is the poster child for bad PR practices,” says Hinton. “At the beginning of the spill, company executives sounded the right tone, but they couldn’t maintain it because of the lies, misrepresentations and careless decision-making revealed through anonymous sources, leaked memos and, in many instances, the company’s own utterances—many of which have been foolish, half-witted and naive.”
Hinton goes on to say that BP’s latest advertising campaign, designed to make the company look warm and fuzzy, has made the situation even worse. “It comes across as insincere and manipulative in the midst of 24/7 television coverage that hasn’t even begun to capture the destructive images on the Gulf Coast.”
Hinton, who is set to be part of the panel “Leveraging the Media to Win in a Crisis” at the PR News Media Relations Forum on June 17 in Washington, D.C., blames the root of the problem on the culture of the oil industry, and believes this crisis will cause big problems for them, simply because of the spill’s location. “A bribe here, a bribe there—all part of doing business,” she says. “Riots and militants, no big deal cause it’s happening in a third-world country nobody cares about. But this spill is in America, and it’s in our face every day.”
Hinton and fellow panelists Gary Wells of Dix & Eaton and Glen Nowak of the Centers for Disease Control will discuss PR in the wake of the BP spill, among other topics, at PR News' Media Relations Forum on June 17.