BP Spin Gives PR a Bad Name

This elevator control panel pictured at left is from an elevator in a condo in Gulf Shores. Like many buildings, there is no 13th floor even though the condo goes up to 15 floors.

But wait – doesn’t the button for the 14th floor in fact lead to the 13th floor, by virtue of the way all the floors are designated? After all, it is the 13th floor as we count up levels in the condo. If we don’t have an “unlucky” button 13, can we really skip all the bad luck that would go with it?

This elevator strikes me as an appropriate metaphor for BP’s PR efforts concerining the oil disaster that is playing out just yards from this very elevator. Spokespeople can tell us there’s no 13th floor, but we know better. We can see for ourselves. We can count for ourselves.

Whenever I see Anderson Cooper in New Orleans (and how does he manage to never look shiny with sweat? Somebody find out what face powder they use over at CNN), I’m amazed to see images of the real 13th floor that BP’s reps would have us believe does not exist. I’ve seen a full page newspaper ad about BP’s commitment to “make things right” every day this summer, no matter where I’ve been, and it just makes me more skeptical. You can’t make things right, in my mind, until you acknowledge whatever is wrong to begin with.  It’s clear there is a disconnect between what we’ve been told has been happening (volume, impact, speed) and what is really happening.

I’m sure developers had to “skip” 13th floors in elevators because superstitous guests and tenants refused to stay in them. But if you can count for yourself, you can’t be fooled, no matter how desperately you wish it to be true.