Dear BP’s PR department:
First of all, let’s get one thing very, very clear before we go any further: your company has fucked up. Not “made a regrettable error” or “inadvertently” anything. You have caused a massive unnatural disaster. Right now, pretty much everybody on the planet hates your guts. There are guys in caves in Afghanistan with Osama bin Laden, sitting around a radio playing the BBC World Service, going “Dude, seriously, fuck BP.”
I can’t imagine there’s anybody who doesn’t actually sit on your board of directors who doesn’t want to kick your asses right now. And by “you”, I mean “everybody who works for BP, including the PR department, the receptionists and probably the janitorial staff”.
So, now that we’ve got that out of the way….
I understand that it is your job to try and make BP’s relations with the public as optimal as possible. You want the public to love your company, to want to consume your products and make everybody a lot of money. You do this, by and large, by figuring out ways to make BP look like the coolest, most environmentally-conscious company in the world. This is a very difficult thing to do when you’re dumping gazillions of gallons of death sauce into the Gulf of Mexico. So you’re probably very busy right now.
One thing you might want to do, however, is to recognize that you’re going to have to ignore one of the basic tenets of public relations: what I mean is, you have to admit you’re wrong. Really, really wrong. Like, the only thing you could have done that was worse was to basically just light the fucking planet on fire while raping babies.
You also need to admit that you were completely careless and ignored your own engineers, who told you this was probably going to happen. You also ignored the fact that your oil well starting actually falling apart like Lindsey Lohan on a mescaline margarita in March, which might have alerted you to a problem.
We know why you did. You’re a corporation. Your job is to make money. And you were afraid you were going to not make as much money if you stopped and actually built an oil well that could actually do the job it was intended for. Let me underline that: there was never, ever any chance you’d lose money on this. You just might have made less money in the short term.
Look: you sell petroleum. You sell the one thing that every nation on the planet is willing to go to war to possess. You’re like Nino Brown in New Jack City, if the entire world was Chris Rock. You’re our momma, you’re our daddy, you’re our nigga in the alley. You’re our pusherman.
The worst that might have happened was that you spent a few million dollars shoring up the Deepwater Horizon, and then you would have gone on making lots more money because it wouldn’t have blown the fuck up. As far as the world is concerned, the only good thing about this spill is that every barrel of that oil is one less barrel you can make a profit on. You’re losing billions of dollars here.
Not that anybody feels sorry for you on that account, so don’t try that tack. It won’t work. In fact, there’s only really one strategy that will be at all effective in saving your company from a planet-wide boycott and bad press the likes of which the world hasn’t seen since Adolf and Eva did their William Tell routine in the bunker in 1945.
It’s very simple. It will work. Nobody will like you, but at least they won’t hate you to the point where they might actually pressure their governments into hounding you into bankruptcy and madness.
Just write a letter. I will even draft it for you. It needs to read something like this:
We fucked up. Badly. Very badly. We are completely and utterly horrified by what has happened. Every time we think of what our company’s greed for profit and carelessness has caused, we run to the toilet and puke. We drink a lot these days. Every time we see another picture of an oil-covered bird, we think about doing a full-on Jonestown thing here at BP HQ. Just put the toxin in the air vents and pump it into every office so we don’t have to live with the total horror and guilt for the incredibly awful thing that we specifically have caused to happen. Not to mention the people who died on the rig. That makes us sick whenever we look at ourselves in a mirror, which is why we’ve had all mirrors and reflective surfaces removed from BP HQ until this all gets resolved. We just can’t look at ourselves.
We have no excuses. We have no spin. We take full responsibility for this spill. It was our fault, nobody else’s. It was a completely avoidable accident, and we let it happen because we didn’t really give a shit. We figured that there was a pretty good chance this wouldn’t happen. We were so incredibly wrong. We are thoughtless and careless and greedy. We are grubby little pigs rooting at the teat of 21st century capitalism.
Here’s what we’re going to do to fix this problem: whatever it takes, whatever it costs, as quickly as possible. We are not going to try and save our own equipment or our revenue stream from this oil well, if doing so means that a single extra gallon of this shit burbles up into the Gulf. We know we’re simply going to take a massive loss here. We don’t care. Plugging that hole is our first priority. Everything else we do, all our business, comes second to this.
And once we finally do that, we’re going to spend as many billions of dollars as it takes to clean up our incredibly massive mess. We don’t put a limit on how much we want to earn, so we’re not going to put a limit on how much we’re going to spend. We’re going to usher in a new century of corporate responsibility.
In return, we hope that you understand that we fucked up, and that we’re going to do better in the future. We’re not going to cut corners, we’re going to be careful, and we’re going to keep bringing you this substance that you all rely on in a safe and ethical fashion. We hope that if we can make you truly believe that we’re doing everything we can, you might still buy our product.
Your friends, Beyond Petroleum
So, uh, yeah. I’d go with something like that.