BP’s Tony Hayward doesn’t get it. In crisis communications terms, his words are a like a giant oil spill themselves, coating the media waters with arrogance, stupidity and leaving the impression that no one really is taking charge of this extraordinary catastrophe. A New York Times article today suggests that he’ll probably be fired before this is all over.
The article recaps some of Tony’s greatest PR hits–the spill is modest because the Gulf of Mexico “ is a very big ocean” and “the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to have been very, very modest. “ He also was quoted as having said that he wanted his life back. He had to apologize this week to the families of the men who were killed on the oil rig.
The article pointed out that he is a geologist. Scientists aren’t always the best communicators but that is no excuse. If the person at the top can’t articulate the company’s positions and isn’t a good communicator, he or she shouldn’t be CEO. The ability to communicate clearly is as important a skill as financial acumen and product expertise. It’s vital to the bottom line. And if you have a CEO who isn’t a good communicator, put another senior manager out front who is. BP has hired a crisis firm and a new person to manage their PR. But just like the oil spill itself, the clean-up to repair the damage will take years.
So in the face of all of this, Tony Hayward is the first name to go on our Communicators Wall of Shame.