Is BP Being Too Low-Key?


As BP’s shares continue sliding in trading on London’s FTSE, its social media outreach and search engine marketing is being criticized as off the mark.

Part of the problem, argues the Financial Times, is the British oil giant’s “cultural failings” and “shortage of native knowledge of America and how it responds to crisis has been painfully exposed.”

The biggest criticism followed BP’s commercial last week featuring CEO Tony Hayward, who also misfired in comments to the media such as “I would like my life back.” Stoicism and self-deprecation doesn’t fly for Americans seeking confidence in leadership — a criticism that was leveled at President Obama in his initial response to the spill.[more]

FT writes: “In par (the criticism) has been caused by BP failing to find the right tone to fit America’s emotional register. A country in which a local politician in his fifties can burst into tears on camera while talking about the pollution in his area, or Charlie Crist, the governor of Florida, can talk fiercely about how much he loves a beach, is strange and unsettling to British eyes.”

The Christian Science Monitor also pondered BP and Hayward’s tone in addressing Americans about its clean up efforts and progress, and found the cultural misunderstanding works both ways in an article titled, “British hear prejudice in US tone on BP oil spill.”

Allyson Stewart-Allen of International Marketing Partners tells the Monitor that the way that BP CEO Tony Hayward “is being received (in America) – as a kind of stand-offish, unemotional, fairly stoic Brit – here in the U.K. it would be absolutely the right thing for him. There, it is not. We (in the U.S.) want to see contrition, we want to see serious upset, we want to see emotion.”

No surprise, the Monitor followed up with another story offering advice to BP to turn around its “oil-drenched image,” including one tip: Take Tony Hayward off the air.