In the last week, BP said it had hired Anne Womack-Kolton to lead media relations in the US and it also launched an ad campaign with Purple Strategies, the Washington shop led by Alex Castellanos and Steve McMahon.
Purple Strategies is also one of the two communications firms working on the Chamber of Commerce's "Campaign for Free Enterprise." The ads are expected to run on TV and in newspapers.
It seems the idea is that Hayward should be front and center, apologizing and taking responsibility. But BP has already proven to have much more sympathetic characters in its stable– COO Doug Suttles particularly comes to mind– who could do the same job without bringing the baggage Hayward does to the clip. It just seems unwise to put him there. Isn't Tony Hayward the last person anyone living near the Gulf wants to see right now? He has already done more than enough to damage the company's image– one spot where he tries to sound remotely sympathetic won't fix that.
Womack-Kolton, former press secretary to Dick Cheney and former director of public affairs for the Department of Energy, most recently worked at APCO Worldwide as an SVP. The firm confirmed that her last day was May 21.
Womack-Kolton previously worked at Brunswick Group, which was hired to handle the crisis for BP. Su-Lin Nichols, director at the firm, said by e-mail that the firm is providing support for communications strategy, media relations, and public affairs for the company.