The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was bound to prove devastating for BP's image, says Daniel Gross in Newsweek, but the company could have mitigated the PR damage with the proper response. Instead, BP CEO Tony Hayward has made the disaster worse by coming off as "glib, wistful, self-involved, and foolish." In a flourish of understatement worthy of a Monty Python character, Hayward even went so far as to say that the amount of oil spilled was "tiny" in relation to the amount of water in the Gulf — "It's just a flesh wound!" There's a standard protocol in such situations, Gross says, and Hayward has broken every rule in it. An excerpt:

"For CEOs in crisis, the playbook includes a proper appreciation of the gravity of the situation, a sense of calm urgency, and confidence-building rhetoric backed by confidence-building action. So far, Hayward is zero for three....

"As the spill worsened, Hayward fretted that he and BP were its victims. 'What they hell have we done to deserve this?' he reportedly told fellow executives. Of course, Hayward isn't the victim here. The sea life, the sea itself, the employees who died, the fishermen who are losing their livelihoods, the tourism industry, responsible drillers — they're the victims. Hayward should have been asking himself: What they hell did they do to deserve this? And what am I going to do fix it?"

Read the full article at Newsweek.