Make it Right BEFORE Disaster Strikes

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I’ve been watching BP’s television commercials flooding the airways. They provide an impressive narrative on the wide range of actions and the commitment the company is making to clean up the Deep Horizon oil spill disaster.

As I saw my third or fourth ad today while exercising, I wondered how much BP was spending to spread the word about its response as part of its “We will make this right” campaign.

I did a quick Google search and learned that, as of June, BP was spending an estimated $50 million on TV advertising to manage its image, according to the Houston Chronicle. It would be hard to believe that amount hasn’t increased in light of the welcomed “good” news being reported right now about bringing the oil well under control.

Regardless of the final ad spending totals, I would imagine that the advertising costs will far exceed what the company and its partners would have spent to fix the problem and “make it right” before the disaster occurred.

This morning’s New York Times pointed to findings indicating that Transocean, the owner of the oil rig that BP was leasing, knew about widespread safety concerns on many of its oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico before the blowout in April.

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The Times also revealed that many workers reportedly feared retaliation for speaking up in a corporate culture marked by fear rather than openness.

This is a textbook case that business students will be learning about for many years. The lesson we can all learn is this: Our leaders must build workplace cultures where issues are welcome and problems corrected — before disaster strikes.

Stephen M. Paskoff, Esq., is the founder, president and CEO of ELI®, an Atlanta-based training company that teaches professional workplace conduct, helping clients translate their values into behaviors, increase employee contribution, build respectful and inclusive cultures, and reduce legal and ethical risk. Contact him at