07-10-07 by Simpson
Oil Giant BP is fighting back from its damaged image in Alaska last year resulting from a major oil spill caused by a lack of proper maintenance. The massive statewide PR campaign is outlined by staff writer Wesley Loy in the Anchorage Daily News.
Although the firm won’t say how much it’s spending, here’s Loy’s description of the sort of activities its using to win the hearts and minds of Alaska’s citizens. He writes that BP has:
"• Held parties, barbecues and picnics around the state touting the 30th anniversary of the Prudhoe Bay field startup on June 20, 1977. Conservative radio talk show host Rick Rydell presided over the biggest event, a VIP reception June 20 at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center.
"• Begun a summer "road show," staffing booths at fairs, festivals and other events such as last week’s Mount Marathon footrace in Seward. College kids are handing out BP literature and knickknacks.
"• Pledged $2 million over two years to a new cancer center at Providence Alaska Medical Center.
"• Kicked off a new program where employees can get up to $800 a year for local youth sports or academic teams and clubs. Since the program began in May, at least 42 BP employees have signed up for grants.
"• Run large ads in newspapers across the state, many of them cast as personal messages from BP Alaska president Doug Suttles. The ads tout Prudhoe’s 11 billion barrels of production so far, BP’s work to replace corroded pipelines, the company’s recent hiring spree and its intent to stay in Alaska for 50 more years.”
Phil Cochrane, BP’s Alaska vice president of external affairs, explained the campaign to the Daily News: "This is not about telling you how great we are. This is about us telling you what we’re doing and you draw your own conclusions.”
I don’t know about you, but my conclusion is that everyone would be much better off and this campaign completely unnecessary if BP had not been so cheap and had simply behaved responsibly, maintaining its equipment properly. Then there would have been no oil spill in Alaska, nor deadly explosion a year earlier at BP’s Texas City, Texas, refinery.
You don’t suppose the PR blitz would have anything to do with grand jury investigations in both states over those incidents, do you?
Meanwhile, as detailed by Sheila McNulty and Ed Crooks in London’ Financial Times, severance package payments to Lord John Browne, former BP chief executive, have been suspended by the company. That is so that if a suit against him and 39 others brought in Alaska state court is successful, the plaintiffs will have money to claim if they win.
Want to bet BP will springing for a few more ads and picnics in Alaska before the summer is over?