BP’s PR problem isn’t a PR problem… it’s an unstoppable gushing well problem. However that hasn’t stopped some crisis PR “experts” from rushing to the media to offer their opinions on what BP should be doing differently to enhance its image. Hey, it’s good exposure for the PR experts, I’ll give them that.

But frankly, the image problem is the effect. The cause is the non-stop gusher under the Gulf. Until that hole is plugged, no amount of PR advice can really plug BP’s PR nightmare.

PR professionals commenting on this crisis should first acknowledge this is the underlying cause of BP’s PR problem, then dispense advice in this context.  If they did, they would be doing a much-needed service for the entire PR industry, which sometimes gets a bad rap for vacuous spin.

So now for the two-bit PR advice to BP.  First, plug the well – obviously.  But in the meantime, have a script.  Sending the CEO or chairman in front of the cameras in the middle of a crisis without a carefully prepared and vetted script is madness.  Had the CEO said, “I want my life back” in a media training session first, the comment would have never made it to prime time.  Likewise, BP’s chairman should have memorized a carefully crafted script before walking out of a White House meeting and talking to the press corps – a script that would not have referred to Gulf residents as “small.”

It’s a good lesson for anyone in corporate America.  When a crisis hits, it is absolutely critical to prepare before stepping in front of the camera.  A single unintentional comment can throw off all good intentions.  And all good intentions are meaningless if the underlying problem – in this case the blown well – are unresolved.