|July 8, 2010|
|BP Embeds Coast Guard's PR Ops in Gulf|
|By Kevin McCauley|
|Talk about a small world. The Coast Guard's key spokesperson in the Gulf of Mexico is on the payroll of Ogilvy, the PR firm that works for BP, which is responsible for one of the worst environmental disasters to hit the U.S. |
Latest bad news bulletin for BP: Its controlled burn of oil slick are apparently toasting sea turtles swimming through the muck.
Coast Guard PA specialist and Petty Officer First Class Rachel Polish is the same person that Ogilvy PR Worldwide hired last July for its 360 Digital Influence Group.
In announcing that move, John Bell, managing director of 360 Digital Influence, noted that Polish's "experience, talent and leadership in the digital space will be an invaluable addition to our team." He got that right. Ogilvy is the firm responsible for the "greening" (or best still, "rebranding") of BP as "Beyond Petroleum." That WPP unit was recently tapped by BP for digital work.
Polish is completely upfront about her government work and job at BP. Her Twitter bio flat out states: "Ogilvy PR digital strategist and public affairs for U.S. Coast Guard Reserve."
In a Tweet, Polish maintains: "I am transparent in who I am and who I serve. I'm proud to serve my country and would never do anything that would pose conflict."
On LinkedIn, Polish outlines her Coast Guard duties as media liaison for breaking news, composing press materials, functioning as on-scene photographer for events and cases in progress and coordinating multiple CG units and external agencies on press events and announcements.
A recent career highlight was a Q&A session with retired Coast Guard Commandant and President Obama's National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen, who is responsible for clean-up of BP’s mess. That session is posted on the Deepwater Horizon Response website, the official site of the Deepwater Horizon Unified Command.
Said Allen of the clean-up: "We need all levels of government pulling together, along with the private sector, to make this happen. Otherwise, we’re going to be out there fighting different battles in different directions. We need to be together on this one. There needs to be unity of effort." Ogilvy would gladly spell out BP's accomplishments in the Gulf.
Polish may have been simply in the right place at the right time. Her nine-year Coast Guard service is to be applauded. She posted last November on the Coast Guard blog about joining the service because of the importance of giving something back to her country. There is no reason to think she would jeopardize that trust.
But even the slightest perception of conflict of interest doesn’t do anybody any good. Huffington Post’s Georgianne Nienaber blogged about "BP's PR Firm Embedded in the Coast Guard."
The Coast Guard doesn't need any more headaches. It must have tens of PA officers who could easily slip into Polish's role in the Gulf.
Polish's PA skills should be used elsewhere.
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