You’re out, but it really doesn’t matter.

(Jas’ note: Tony Hayward will be replaced, effective Oct. 1, 2010. This post was written on July 26, prior to the announcement.)

“I think the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to be very, very modest.”- Tony Hayward

Certainly quotes like the above by Tony Hayward, CEO of British Petroleum (BP), did not help with his public image in the wake of the Gulf oil spill. There have been reports that Hayward is out, while BP says no decision has been made. My ultimate question is whether his presumed ouster will truly matter.

Was this all Hayward’s fault– the spill, the slowness in clean-up response, the delayed capping? No, it wasn’t.

AP

Before you burn me at the stake for taking this position, let me explain.  I am NOT exhonerating what BP did (or did not) do.  Their crisis communications have been horrible and Hayward should know better than to utter the whole having his “life back” thing.  A region is devastated and you are worried about your posh life?

What I AM saying is that regardless if Hayward is booted, the next person still has a monumental mess on his hands.  So, ultimately, why even bother removing him? The environmental damage alone will take decades to fix.  Some things may never return to normal.

This is a “save face” move.  BP appears to be moving on from the Hayward reign and place the keys in the hands of a new leader.  Basically, BP’s board is saying, “Hey look! We are doing something about the spill!” No, you removed your CEO who was a small part of the problem.

Kicking Hayward to the curb is not going to stop the oil from trickling out of the cap or return the Gulf back to its pre-spill conditions.  It will generate headlines and put a childs’s Band-Aid on a gaping wound.

Either way, it appears Tony Hayward is about to get his life back.  But it really doesn’t matter.

About JasMollica

"It's never too late to have a life and it's never too late to change one." That's something I tell students, friends, and family all the time. After living and working in New York City, I took my own advice in 2004, switched my career from the television/radio industry and got into public relations. Now, I spend my days as a PR/social media marketing consultant and get inspired daily. It's been a good ride, so far. But the car has plenty of gas left. I hope you'll join along in this guy's journey!

Posted on July 26, 2010, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Totally agree with your take on this, Jason. Good post.

    @Worob
    PR at Sunrise – worob.com

  2. I think I disagree with you Jason. I think it DOES matter who the lead face of BP is. Tony Hayward has handicapped himself past the point of being able to be an effective leader in the recovery effort. Mainly because no one believes a single word that comes out of his mouth.

    To be an effective leader in this time of crisis, BP needs a figurehead whom the public can believe and trust. Hayward has neither virtue in his corner at this point.

    Love the post, but I disagree with your premise. Also, your fantasy baseball team got lucky last week. Revenge will be mine.

    • Here’s my question though: who is someone that the public trusts? Most CEOs of large corporations I’ve never heard of, so I wouldn’t be a good judge of character. But how can someone instill trust in the public eye if no one knows of them in the first place?

      Just playing devil’s advocate here. Both of you bring up excellent points.

      By the way, Jas, thoughtful post and really love this new blog design!

      • @Matt
        I beat you because Phil Cuzzi was umping our last game! ;)

        Unless the new BP guy can wipe the slate (and the Gulf) clean, he’s in for a rough job. That’s why I don’t think it matters. Sure, business wise, it DOES matter who is running BP. But, when it comes to the current situtation, the new guy is in a no-win scenario. People are now going to expect this new person to do everything Hayward didn’t. Sure, he’ll promise a bunch of stuff and deliver on a few things. But, the damage is done.

        @Samantha
        Glad you like the new design. It took awhile to finally find something I liked!
        You bring up a fine point about trust. We’ll get a news story on who this new person is and what he’s done in the past. But, I couldn’t tell you who he is either. And that goes for most CEOs. Unless they are named Murdoch or Welch, I’m like everyone else. I do some research on them and see if they know what they are doing.

  3. Jason, I wish I had more time to write more about this topic, but I just want to say you will not be burned at the stake for this! In a very large organization we worked with (we were the client), it seemed that the answer many times to a crisis was “we’re bringing in so-and-so who has an amazing history with fixing ____” but more often than not, the amazing person took so long to get up to speed that they were a hindrance; no one bothered to stick with the reasonable resourceful people there already and resolve the corporate culture issues that were causing the org to be non responsive to begin with. Hayward worked his way up as a geologist and I have to believe most of the time he had the organization’s best interests at heart – he was involved heavily in safety planning, etc. etc. I hate how he reacted after the crisis and don’t feel sorry for him from that standpoint and I’m glad to see him go – but he’s not the only problem AT ALL! Gee, I think you hit a nerve!!

    • Paula,

      Great perspective. I always disliked that type of line like, “We’re bringing in XX who knows this type of thing in and out.” Six months later, their are out.

      I’m glad it touched a nerve with you. I enjoyed your response. It’s why I wrote the post today. His soon-to-be ouster caught my eye and sparked me to write about it. Right or not, I’m not sold that it really matters. I think the general public will be the ultimate factor.

  4. Jason,

    Definitely NOT saying that BP needs to bring someone in. However, at this point, I’m pretty sure BP needs to have someone the public, its employees, and its investors and stockholders, don’t immediately want to punch in the face when seeing him.

    If the crew loses faith in the captain, there’s a big problem. A new captain may be a cosmetic change for the most part, but it’s a change that I think is necessary, and in many more perspectives than just PR.

  5. When this mess first started, I thought they should have kicked Hayward out immediately. But then I realized that, just as you have said, the next person would end up in the same position – maybe hated even more, no matter what they said. I think BP was smart to wait until they at least sort of (maybe, kinda?) stopped the leak (for today, or at least this minute). I think they see themselves in the recovery phase now, hence the new (or semi-new) face. They let Hayward dig himself a hole as deep as he could, and now bring in someone new because the winds have (maybe) changed a bit. They were smart to leave him there to begin with and (in my opinion) wise to now move on. Great post!

    • Thanks Niki.
      I replied to another blog that I felt that BP image will probably never recover, much like Exxon never will get out from under the Valdez spill. I’m not saying they shouldn’t make a change, but the new face will have a monumental task ahead. I wish him luck.. he’s gonna need it!

  6. Great stuff, bud.

    I equate it to baseball (it makes it easier for me to wargame this out):

    In the middle of a horrible season, a team is likely to fire it’s manager, even if he had been doing his job well. A manager isn’t hitting or pitching or fielding. The on-field failure is ultimately that of the players, not the 55-year old making 1/10th of a player’s salary.

    However, one managing theory is that a change at the top will shake up the organization and inject new and different (if not always better) life into the organization.

    You’re right – the new guy has a major mess to clean up…in all meanings of the word. But Heyward was held accountable for the company’s actions under his watch and that may not be fair, but it’s sometimes the price of doing business.

    • Mike,

      I was thinking the same exact thing when I wrote this. Should I make the baseball comparison to a manager getting canned mid-season when the players are underachieving?

      Ultimately, you can’t fire the players. And in the BP case, I guess you can’t fire the vice president for external affairs. But, like baseball, sometimes firing the manager makes no difference really. Look at the Orioles. How did that work out?

      In BP’s case, will this move be a Juan Samuel? A place holder for someone more qualified, like Buck Showalter. Or will it be a Jim Tracy?

      Thanks again for your perspective, Mike!

  1. Pingback: When A Change At The Top Is Necessary « Public Relations and Other Ruminations

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