Water and Oil: Beyond Smiley-Face PR
August 10, 2010
Last week I posted An Industrial Branding Lesson from a Tar-Balled Oil Producer at the PowderandBulk.com blog. The article lead off with the popular impression of the environmental disaster BP's oil slick had spawned. The following day the New York Times published this news: U.S. Finds Most Oil From Spill Poses Little Additional Risk.
So was the disaster something less than what we expected from the news and the blogs and the live video we could watch 24/7 as oil spewed into the Gulf for weeks-on-end? And what response should we expect from industry and regulators to protect our waters in the future?
I don't claim to know the answer to either question; though I expect there are many engineers and scientists, managers and policy makers who visit this website who could enlighten us all. And that is the role that our energy and water experts should be playing: careful, thoughtful, calm, reasoned analysis after the crisis has passed. We need more respectful dialog that balances competing needs and offers options that take into account social, economic and environmental imperatives that may not share the same objectives.
Whatever the level of long term damage to the Gulf waters, there will be continuing damage to the public perception of the industries that build and sustain our modern world. And that was the point of the Industrial Branding article: those who engineer our modern world need to do a better job defining, explaining, educating and leading in the public marketplace of ideas. And they aren't going to achieve that with the sort of smiley-face PR that BP had practiced prior to the Gulf oil spill.