Monday, June 21, 2010

Tally-ho, Tony Hayward

Okay, the guy’s entitled to take a day off, especially with the last couple of months he’s been through.

And, no, this is not the type of crisis where we can rightfully expect those involved should never, ever take a break from. This is not a five-hour, five-day, or even five-week kind of crisis, during which the guys in charge might be working a bleary-eyed 24/7, showing up on the news in the same damned shirt for days on end looking gaunt and unshaven, sending us the clear message that they’re doing everything they can do to set things right.

This crisis was engineered to last a while longer, I’m afraid.

Does the crisis mean that every BP executive (not to mention every elected politician) needs to cease and desist from every bit of pleasure until the hole is plugged, the waters clear, and the last Louisiana shrimp boat back in business?

I don’t think so. And I don’t think I’d feel any differently if this was all taking place in my back yard.

After all, Abraham Lincoln took in an occasional play during the Civil War, most of which – up until the last one – probably made for a nice diversion. FDR took breaks in Warm Springs, Georgia throughout the Depression and World War II, most of which – up until the last one – probably made for a nice diversion.

Somebody should probably be doing something about the Gulf Gusher at every waking hour of the day. But everybody doesn’t have to be on perpetual watch.

And I really don’t expect BP’s chief exec, Tony Hayward, to be swabbing the nostrils of pelicans with q-tips.

But is there anything more quintessentially, to the hounds, let them eat-cake-ally Brit – or is it rich exec-ally, in general -  than going off yachting while the broekn BP well keeps on bubblin’ up crude.

Talk about tin-ear wrong, wrong, wrong from a PR perspective. Hayward would have been better off if his day off had been spent punting on the Thames, or with champagne and strawberries at Wimbledon.

Come on, what were you thinking, Tony – other than poor me, and I deserve a break, and I’ve been so taking it in the neck, and (sniff, sniff) I really do rather enjoy sailing - getting on your million dollar yacht for a race in clean, ocean water, while your company’s negligence has resulted in despoiling a lot of what just a few short months ago was clean water and pristine shoreline.  Just like the type of clean and pristine that Hayward enjoyed racing around the Isle of Wight – not with Vera, Chuck, and Dave, but with the other swells taking part in the JP Morgan Asset Management Around the Island Race.

It’s not quite clear whether Hayward was sailing or spectating, but he really should have chosen a different weekend getaway – one that wouldn’t have brought up the stark comparisons between expensive pleasure boats, gloriously a-sail, and working boats, ingloriously awash in oil. Couldn’t he have just stayed home with friends and family, pounding down Hendricks and cucumbers, and railing about how greedy grubbing Americans are?

I just don’t understand how it is that accomplished executives, working for sophisticated enterprises with communications and PR experts on staff and on hire, can’t seem to figure out what you can do and what you can’t do when the old shit-er-ina hits the old fan-er-oo.

You’d think, wouldn’t you…..

But, no. (Or is it, hell, no.)

Even the Brits have raised their eyebrows on this latest:

The British press, much more sympathetic than the American media to BP's plight, has expressed disbelief at the company's strategy.

"It is hard to recall a more catastrophically mishandled public relations response to a crisis than the one we are witnessing," the Daily Telegraph's Jeremy Warner wrote Friday. (Source: AP article in the Boston Globe.)

If it’s any comfort, I went over to the race site and checked things out.  Hayward’s boat, Bob, came in fourth in its class, behind Desperado, but ahead of Baraka (phew! thank god for the difference between an “a” and a “c”), Venomous, and Oyster Catcher – the latter, indeed, a fitting name, given the devastation that the BP blowout has wrought upon the Gulf oystering business.

Anyway, I’m sure we’ll see poor Tony back on the job this week, refreshed and energized by his bracing sail and fourth place finish. Perhaps he’ll even be ready to do battle with the extra criticism that will be raining down on his head, given that he didn’t have the good sense to do something else on his precious little time off.

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