by Merlin Hernandez

In the typical sophistry of the young, my daughter who has just started college, proposed to justify a flirtation with PR as a career. Her point about the value of PR in restoring trust in the market after a crisis was a good one as it can assure continued profitability. This brings to mind the situation in which BP found itself after the Gulf disaster in 2010 and resultant falling stock prices. Serious questions arose about BP’s risk management oversights vis-à-vis the company’s cost-cutting measures over the previous two years – an ethical problem. BP set about immediate clean up as was to be expected but maintained an emphasis on “unlocking value in the portfolio” (Robert Dudley, BP CEO).

Despite the negative publicity, BP ramped up its cost-cutting perspective globally to show quarterly profits and win back investor confidence. It was a strategy of cost-cutting, developing new oil and gas prospects, finding ways to take advantage of OPEC’s reduced output, and trading shares at a significant discount on the combined value of its assets – all about restoring trust in the market. Once the company remained on a good financial footing, BP had the resources to restore the damage in the Gulf and prove itself to be a good and ethical corporate citizen. The dilemma might have been what comes first, the ethics or the profits? Seen the BP sponsored ads for a rejuvenated Gulf recently? Genius!